Coming out and on to the gridiron
The professional sports community was caught off-guard last week when CBS sports reporter, Mike Freeman, announced that an NFL player is considering coming out of the closet. It will mark the first time in a major male-professional sport that a gay athlete comes out while still active as opposed to the number of male athletes who have come out during retirement. The rumor has incited passionate responses from fans, players, gay rights organizations and the league. Although the player may not have intentions of using the NFL as a stepping stool to advocate gay rights, the implications of the potential confession are inevitable.
In recent weeks the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has taken monumental steps toward equality in regards to the law. The Supreme Court hearings have placed the constitutionality of the definition of marriage under serious question. The possibility of an active and openly gay football player might be the new frontier for the social acceptance of LGBT lifestyles.
The NFL Players Association is prepared to support this anonymous player. NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth told WNST.com he expects multiple players to come out as the LGBT community is striving toward cultural acceptance. Over the years, the league has faced scrutiny from activist groups for creating a homophobic environment. Supporting an openly gay player could be an opportunity to prove otherwise. Not all outlooks are positive, though.
Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Chris Clemons posted on Twitter that a player coming out of the closet would be a “selfish act” and that any player who would wait until he got to the NFL to come out of the closet is making himself “bigger than the team.”
The sports world is expecting the unveiling to warrant excessive media coverage. Kris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings and ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization working to end homophobia in sports, submitted a rebuttal to Clemons’s comments to CNN.com. Kluwe said media coverage is making it difficult for gay athletes to come out.
“It’s not right that professional sports, and especially the professional sports media, have created an environment where gay players are willing to hide essential components of themselves as human beings in order to pursue their dreams,” Kluwe said. “It’s not right that our insatiable lust for sports coverage creates an atmosphere where someone would willingly subordinate his life to a backward and bigoted world view in order to stay employed.”
Athlete Ally has made it clear it will be behind this player 100 percent as he faces the fans, fellow players and the media. Unlike court cases and private interest groups that have been used as tools by lobbyist and advocates to change public policy and laws, he will be introducing the moral correctness of homosexuality into millions of homes through an unprecedented medium. Lorraine Schroeder, director of the UH LGBT Resource Center, said this is an opportunity to present a human face on such a contentious issue.
“Coming out as LGBT will have a positive effect on everyone. It will show that we are human. We are a part of the human race. We’re your neighbors, classmates, friends, teachers and professional football players,” Schroeder said. “It’s a good conversation for people to have. It would create a paradigm shift in people’s image of gay men.”
It’s possible that the player may not come out, but as society evolves and we become more tolerant of different lifestyles, the likelihood of other players taking the plunge will increase. The LGBT community’s fight for equality can’t end in courthouses. There will be new frontiers away from the political atmosphere where parents, children and individuals will have to address the moral correctness of homosexuality and the social norms that label us.
Ciara Rouege is an advertising junior and may be reached at [email protected]