Posts Tagged ‘Gays in sports’


Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam recently came out of the closet. That turned sports fans’ attention not only to the opening of baseball spring training but also to April’s National Football League draft.

Some NFL insiders question whether Michael Sam’s in-between size—he weighs 255 pounds—will enable him to find a position at which to excel. Others wonder if Michael Sam will bring too much baggage to their locker rooms. Or more accurately, if teammates will bring their baggage. NFL culture has not proven receptive to gays joining the player ranks, although it’s reasonable to assume that some current players are gay.

Certainly an interesting cross-section of college players is eligible for this year’s draft. While scouting reports remain guarded, I’ve uncovered a few leaks. Here’s a peek at four other players—their names must remain confidential—analyzed by NFL scouts.

Defense back A: Strong safety with rep as a vicious hitter as attested by two ex-girlfriends. College coaches and fans loved his mean streak, so the local district attorney is reluctant to try him on assault charges fearing loss of his season tickets. Player’s philosophical comment: “Can’t we just move on?” Projected first-round pick.

Quarterback B: Gambler who keeps both defenses and university officials off balance. Told arresting officer at illegal dice game he was studying theories of mathematical probability. Was only enrolled in three physical education classes at the time. Explained five thousand dollars in jacket pocket as money collected for purchase of Girl Scout cookies. Everyone loves his swagger, including pre-draft move to condo in Las Vegas. Projected first-round pick.

Offensive lineman C: Nicknamed “The Human Roadblock.” Great tenacity fighting off pass rushers attempting to sack his quarterback and police attempting to sack him after driving 95 miles an hour on city street and rear-ending another vehicle. Accident left a seven-year-old girl paralyzed. Claims, “That wasn’t me. That was the alcohol.” Projected first-round pick.

Linebacker D: Known as “The Assassin” for his bone-crunching tackles and trademark celebration miming holding a gun and pulling the trigger. Denies shooting anyone after leaving a house party following an argument and returning in a friend’s Honda Civic. “I was holding the gun for someone else. Besides, you stuff some big guys in a small car and everyone ends up with powder burns on their hands.” Projected first-round pick.

No question, sports reveals a lot about what makes America great: If you can deliver, you’ll earn a place on a team and the big money that comes with it.

As to Michael Sam’s draft prospects, I really don’t know. Yes, he was a game changer at the highest college level. But as fans know, physical ability isn’t enough. Athletes need character. Teammates are like brothers. They have to be comfortable with each other. To become champions, teams need not only skills but also chemistry.

That’s where drafting Michael Sam could be a problem. He’s already earned his college degree. Moreover, he’s intelligent, thoughtful and well spoken. It could be it’s this—not his sexual orientation—some general managers, coaches and players see as a threat in the locker room.

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What if you looked in the mirror and couldn’t see yourself? For many Americans and others around the world, that’s reality. But Jason Collins is putting his reflection back where it belongs—in plain sight. Let’s not force others to disappear in the process.

Two weeks ago, Brittney Griner, the 6-8 basketball All-American from Baylor, announced that she was a lesbian. “Ho hum,” the sports world responded. Lesbians in sports don’t rouse much attention—and that’s good.

Last Monday witnessed some history. Collins, a 6-11 center for the NBA’s Washington Wizards last season, wrote in Sports Illustrated that he’s gay. A veteran of 12 NBA seasons, he became the first active player in America’s four major pro leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) to come out of the closet. The reaction was close to “ho hum.” That’s good, too.

I have a personal stake in this. I have three sons. The eldest, like me, is straight. The middle was born female and is transgender—a term that in many ways defies description. He refers to himself as male and legally changed his first and middle names. My youngest is gay and happily married—to my son-in-law.

I’m delighted that Collins received much support—from President Obama, NBA commissioner David Stern and Lakers star Kobe Bryant among others. But not everyone was thrilled. Chris Broussard, who covers the NBA for CNN, said on the air that homosexuals violate the laws of Jesus Christ. He took flack. On Tuesday, Broussard wrote online, “As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement … and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.”

While most sports fans and much of America is cutting Jason Collins slack, lets cut Chris Broussard some, too. Look, I totally disagree with his opinion. But he’s entitled to his religious beliefs so long as he doesn’t interfere with others who believe or live differently. And he says he won’t. So let him demonstrate that without being demonized.

Many Christians, Jews, Muslims and others think that homosexuality is wrong—and sinful. I disagree. But people who hold those positions must be free to do so as long as they don’t act to restrict others’ lives. We cannot uphold freedom of religion and speech if we refuse to allow those with different opinions to speak out.

According to millions of Christians, I’m going to hell. I couldn’t care less because I don’t believe that there’s a “right” religion or form of religious expression let alone a hell. But I care deeply about their right to express themselves so long as they don’t assault my privacy or preach—let alone act on—restricting my rights and freedoms.

So here’s to gay and lesbian athletes who now can see more of themselves in the mirror and, hopefully, compete openly. And here’s to the First Amendment with which no one should compete.

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