by Ryan Meehan
This past week former U.S. National Team and MLS midfielder Robbie Rogers announced on his own personal website that he is coming out of the closet and is in fact a homosexual man. Among those tweeting support to Rogers were many U.S. teammates and U.S. women’s players, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, NBA star Steve Nash, along with many others.
This is not a space where I am going to sit here and discuss whether or not being gay is a choice, or something that you realize as a lifestyle change as you grow up. I’m also not going to discuss the merits of how it’s viewed by any sort of religious organization, or how I feel about it personally. This website is about sports.
Robbie’s revelation (although possibly a step forward) is not going to be the litmus test as far as how a professional gay athlete is viewed in this country. The individual who makes this major breakthrough is going to have to fall under two categories, and he has to be able to do so simultaneously.
1. The player will have to be in one of the four major sports leagues in the United States (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL)
2. The player HAS to be active
Let’s break this down: What I am saying does seem a little bit sexist, but hear me out. The WNBA is not a major professional sport. We can sit here all night and make jokes about the sexuality of countless WNBA players, but the fact is that there have been enough of them who have proclaimed themselves to be lesbians and the discussion of how will a major league player will be viewed as gay is still active. That is for a couple of different reasons…First of all like I said earlier, the WNBA is not a major sport. Although there are some great players in the league, it’s still right around horseracing and sailing as far as public awareness in the sporting community. And second, it will take a man that is comfortable with being forward about the fact that he enjoys the company of another man. Not to say that women don’t face the same struggles when it comes to the acceptance of their sexuality, but society has been historically more accepting of women who love women, because there is something appealing about that action to a straight man. And that’s not just me saying that, John Amaechi said it as well.
Let’s talk about that for a second…John Amaechi came out back in 2007, four years after he had retired from the game of basketball. So this means that not only did he not make his announcement as an active player, he had a four year buffer there where there was plenty of time to forget about him. And even though NBA rosters are small, it could be argued that not a lot of people were aware of Amaechi’s presence in the NBA to begin with. I watched a significant amount of pro basketball in later years, and I can honestly say when the news broke regarding his coming out of the closet I had no idea who the hell he was.
I’m not saying that a very famous or successful athlete has to come out in order for it to be significant to gay rights, but it has to be in one of those sports and it has to be an active player for it to be THE event.
Will we see this happen in our lifetime? I believe so. I think that with as diverse as our world is becoming, eventually somebody is going to be brave enough to share their alternative lifestyle preference in one of those four sports while still playing. This may be a step forward, but it’s not the breakthrough that the LGBT community is looking for when it comes to general acceptance in pro sports.
That, and it’s soccer. Let’s not lose sight of something that’s so easy to lose sight of.