Gay athletes must fill void in men's sports.

by Apr 15, 2013 4:30 pm Tags: , , , , ,

Vince Ei is a Spartan Daily staff writer.

Vince Ei is a Spartan Daily staff writer.

I have no gay role models in sports, and that is a problem.

It's not because the world is short on them or because I haven't searched.

A couple who have affected me a great deal are Gore Vidal, who was the most versatile writer ever, and Ellen DeGeneres, who has one of the best personalities in show business.

But as much as I love good writing and television, my passion for sports far exceeds the rest and I fear that its slow progress toward full equality has stymied the process for all of society.

Sports personality Dan Le Batard writes, “There aren't many barriers left to break in sports. The only way an athlete can be Jackie Robinson today is by being an active male player in a team sport who is gay.”

The search for the modern-day Robinson may be over with the announcement earlier this month by CBS sports of several active NFL players possibly coming out, hopefully not for a selfish financial opportunity.

It amazes me how sports connects a multitude of fans, sometimes a city or country's worth, who in essence are complete strangers bonded together as beloved comrades or sworn enemies depending on which team they support.

There was a yearning I felt my entire life to be a player on a team like that, and even as an adult I look up to young players such as Bryce Harper and practice moves I see Kyrie Irving do on television.

As a writer, I don't want to necessarily be like Vidal, and I don't aim to be Rachel Maddow as a journalist, but as a fan, I go as far as fantasizing about being Michael Jordan soaring through the air and Wayne Gretzky over the ice.

Becoming the president of the United States or winning an Oscar were never my aspirations in life.

I've always dreamed of netting the game winning goal for the Stanley Cup or catching the game winning touchdown to win the Super Bowl.

I would practice my swing with an invisible bat and pretend I just hit a walk-off home run. Every shot I took at the park was a buzzer-beater where there was always five seconds left on the clock with my team down by one.

Sports to me is like a never-ending television show spanning thousands of seasons airing all across the globe, and I think it has been neglecting a certain character: the openly gay athlete.

This is primarily applicable to men's professional leagues because women have a more respectable history of active lesbian athletes from Martina Navratilova to Sheryl Swoopes and Megan Rapinoe.

Having gay players competing does bot seem to have affected women's games negatively, or positively. In fact, I don't think lesbian athletes have affected the game at all.

In their respective leagues, they are just regular players like the straight athletes, doing their best and working hard to win.

Four years after playing several seasons in the NBA, all the while keeping his sexuality a secret, John Amaechi became the first NBA player to come out of the closet publicly

Amaechi writes about the discouraging environment created by his teammates in his memoir “Man in the Middle.”

“Over time, I realized their anti-gay prejudice was more a convention of a particular brand of masculinity,” Amaechi writes. “Homophobia is a ballplayer posture, akin to donning a “game face, wearing flashy jewelry or driving the perfect black Escalade.”

All four major professional sports leagues are working with numerous LGBT organizations, and they can do all the advocacy they want but, in the end, the decision is up to the players to get rid of the stereotypical macho-man persona that infects the culture.

They are the ones that have to give up their insecurities in the locker room and end the preconceived notions toward gays that have been embedded in their minds since childhood.

Wade Davis, a former NFL player who also waited until retirement to come out, writes, “I don't believe another athlete would try to harm a gay male athlete, but professional sports is still full of people happy to express their disapproval of homosexuality, and coming out requires a supportive environment.”

Player-to-player support has been trickling in these past years and several active players such as Minnesota Vikings kicker Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo are extremely active in LGBT advocacy.

I was really hoping for sports to be a pioneer on this issue but I felt disappointed that it was being left out in milestones for human rights.

Barney Frank's marriage is a triumph in our legal system that changes the way we look at our representatives in government, and Frank Ocean's revealing disturbs a certain conventionality in hip hop that needed a change in direction.

It seems like the one major societal aspect that has shown the least progression towards gay rights is sports, and the athletes, as the ambassadors, need to at least create a welcoming atmosphere.

Sports is a world built on tradition, but some things need to change.

This is especially true in this era of sports where noble, clean athletes seem to be rare.

I don't care what Charles Barkley says, professional athletes will always be role models, because although sporting is a virtuous thing, it can't be a role model, only athletes can.

As a child, I marveled at their physical capabilities and unparalleled skill, and as I got older the athletes had even more to offer.

Just to name a few, I started admonishing Kobe Bryant for his work ethic, Milan Lucic's toughness, Buster Posey's charm, Ray Lewis's passion, Kent Bazemore's enthusiasm, and the courage of a certain unnamed athlete that has yet to make himself known.

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