Coming Out and into the Locker Room

Posted: May 17, 2011 in Sports just because

I’ve seen lots of articles in the news lately about gay awareness and after two separate articles posted on ESPN yesterday (both must reads I highly suggest you look at them) it’s time we take yet another look at it. Homophobia in sports needs to stop, and athletes are the ones who can give this movement a much needed push.

Homosexuality in sports has been an issue forever it seems, mostly associated with the macho mentality put forth by athletes involved but also by those who watch. Athletes are warriors, gladiators, manly men. They drink beer, they hunt, they’re big, strong, appealing to women. This all sounds like a load of crap to you too doesn’t it?

Yesterday it was reported that Phoenix Suns (NBA) president and CEO Rick Welts came out on Sunday. Can you guess how he did it? If you thought a big huge press conference was called, with gay rights activists present and a piece sung by Elton John you’re sadly wrong. Although a nice mash-up of Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Bennie and the jets would add a nice touch. No Mr. Welts simply picked up the phone and called the NY Times and informed them he was gay.

That’s all it took, one small phone call and again we have national, and I guess technically international, news about a member of the sports community coming out of the closet. Are you surprised? Because I’m not, and if anything I think it’s time, again we’re saying this, to just accept the times we are in and get over it. What is the big deal? Are people seriously concerned about sharing a locker room with a gay person? So what?! Personally, if they find me attractive enough to look at I’ll take that as a compliment.

Maybe it’s because people like Tim Hardaway still have their heads in the sand and refuse to update their personal views past the Stone Age. In 2007 while talking to Dan Le Batard in Miami, this beautiful quote was issued:

“First of all I wouldn’t want him on my team,” said Hardaway. “Second of all, if he was on my team I would really distance myself from him because I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room.”

Should not be in the locker room when we’re in there? Who are we? Are all of you so afraid of things you don’t know? It’s not like he’s going to grope you in the shower, he’s a man not an animal. Secondly he is your teammate, do people not think that they are people too? Just because I like women doesn’t mean I’m going to be all over every single one I see walking down the street, it’s called class, and it exists whether you’re gay or not.

There are lists of athletes both big and small who have come out, but like the ESPN articles make mention of, they come out after their playing time is done. Why is that necessary? Why can’t they attend the drafts with their family and maybe their partner, and still be celebrated? “I thought, there might be some young people out there who were in the same position I was, who love team sports … but are afraid”(TAKEPART.com)

Good for you Mr. Welts, add your name to the list with the others who are trying to make a difference. The fact these people are afraid, in what’s supposed to the land of free and the home of the “brave” is a disappointment to me as a Canadian fan of American sports. You know what’s brave? Being able to go in front of an entire country and proclaim your true feelings knowing that many will look at you in disgust now. You know what’s disgusting? Is looking at this man any different, or any athlete that shares these feelings for that matter.

Now I may not have been “Mr. pro-thinking” my entire life, I merely chose to ignore the issue or not make anything of it at all. It just didn’t affect me so I chose not to get involved, but now that I have a medium in which to express my thoughts and back them up, I’m going to.

In the second article posted yesterday on ESPN, it featured a former Villanova basketball star and the journey he has taken on since leaving organized sports. He is an underground musician in New York, works in the fashion industry, and his name is Will Sheridan. Like a lot of gay men, if you looked at him on any given day you’d probably just think to yourself he’s another guy walking down the street, accept he’s much better than you at basketball and probably some other sports too.

He came to the realization he was gay and couldn’t hold it in anymore during his freshman year at Villanova. He shared it first with his college roommate Mike Nardi, who was also on the basketball team. The way he came out? While hanging out one night in their dorm room as freshman talking. He simply told Nardi he had something to tell him, and he did. Nardi’s reaction was exactly how everyone’s should be, or along the same lines at least, “I mean I was surprised because it was new to me. I had never really experienced anything like that, but it’s not like it mattered. I don’t know. I mean, we were friends. Who cares?”

It’s not like it mattered…we’re friends, who cares. Exactly, who cares? Sheridan went on to play four strong years at Villanova during their rise as a national college basketball factory. They have put together strong teams for almost a decade now, and all the while who knew a gay man had seeped through the cracks. Crazy isn’t it?

“I remember at some games, especially Saint Joe’s games, they were unreal…At first, I was like, my grandma is sitting right there”

And yet he soldiered on, played those games and played them well. Why sports, of all things, is it so tough for people to admit who they are? The Brotherhood, the bonds, the memories, the friendships, and all these great things can come out of sports yet such an ugly shadow still hangs over it.

Sadly we may never see this issue resolved as there will always be the haters, those who need to hold others down because they can find no other fault in the person than something they have no control over. That would be like me being hating that I’m tall, but why would I? I like being tall, being tall is awesome I’m good at sports, I walk faster than most people which leads to better seats on the GO Train, and I know when it rains faster than most people. To hate myself would be the same thing as hating people because they’re gay, c’mon, seriously? I was made tall thanks to genetics and science, it’s just the way things happened. Will Sheridan was born gay, yes he was born that way. He did not choose to be gay, no more than I chose to be tall. He was given many gifts and has been able to create what seems like a great life out of every single one them, both his personal and physical characteristics. Hate is such a strong word and you’ve got way better things to worry yourself with than who someone brings home at night.

This is not simply a pro gay rant because it connects with sports, and they can have such an incredible influence. When Tim Tebow did a pro-life ad I was disappointed when I saw it because it was a personal issue, not a global-societal issue. Tim Tebow, a great athlete, is also a devout Christian and feels compelled to share that message. Now when you see the ad it is up for debate how “Christian” it was, as there is no specific mention of a sponsoring church. But abortion and gay rights are totally different, as the factors influencing the decisions of abortion are limitless and there is not enough time in the world to discuss every situation and what makes them unique.

A gay athlete however is a gay athlete, plain and simple. That is a genetic selection they have been given that they have no choice whether to be gay or not. They like people of the same sex and love competing against them too, is that so wrong? Like it or hate it, there can never be enough about this message and I’m just trying to spread the word after hearing it myself. Please see the articles below at ESPN for further information, more knowledge never hurt anyone, only those who pretend it’s not there.

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=oneil_dana&id=6488036
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=6556998

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