From the “Think Progress LGBT” website:
The former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates has come out as gay in the New York Times, telling the paper that “homophobic language during his days in baseball” convinced “him that keeping his sexual orientation hidden was best.” “I’ve got a birthday coming up where I’m turning old,” Kevin McClatchy, who owned the Pirates from 1996 to 2007, says. “I’ve spent 30 years — or whatever the number is specifically — not talking about my personal life, lying about my personal life… There’s no way I want to go into the rest of my existence and ever have to hide my personal life again.” McClatchy will turn 50 in January. No active player in baseball, or in the principal leagues of football, basketball or hockey has come out as gay.
Based solely on recent events, it’s no wonder McClatchy chose to keep his sexual orientation a secret.
By now, the story of Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo and his stance on LGBT issues,–specifically gay marriage, and its unintended controversy–is well known. It brought strong criticism from Maryland lawmaker Emmett C. Burns Jr., who went so far as to call on Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to restrain Ayanbadejo from speaking out publicly on the issue, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a scathing, profanity-laced letter to Burns, blasting him for not only his beliefs but also his plea to Bisciotti to discipline Ayanbadejo for his.
All of this reaction was because Ayanbadejo supported gay marriage and spoke out in favor of it…he is not himself gay. It’s disturbing to think how Burns might have reacted had Ayanbadejo been known to be gay and had made his comments.
To be fair, Burns released a statement which was probably supposed to be considered an apology:
“Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights,” Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, said in a telephone interview. “And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds.”
Forbes magazine featured a great article written by superagent Leigh Steinberg on how he advises hie clients on their public image:
For years I would answer the question of whether I would advise a gay client to be open with “not on your life”. It was a theoretical question because no athlete I represented ever indicated that sexual orientation. But my job was to protect clients from unecessary scorn and ridicule. My job is also to be a member of a free and loving society with tolerance and acceptance. There is little enough love in the world for any of us to judge the way that consenting adults express it. Today my answer would be different.
Although the controversies of both racism and LGBT acceptance are different, the negative emotions and beliefs that surround both are based on the same bigotry and ignorance. It took the courage and suffering of Jackie Robinson to begin the painful integration of blacks and other minorities into major league baseball, ultimately arguably costing him his life at an early age from a heart attack.
Perhaps it will take the same effort and similar sacrifice by an athlete as yet unknown to allow gay athletes to live authentic lives, and not those forced upon them by society.