In today’s day and age there seems to be a certain stigma pertaining to minorities and their civil rights. As a whole, it’s human nature for people to have different beliefs alluding to the fact as to why there has been a freedom of choice as to which values to practice. In order for these minorities to express how they really feel, they aim for national attention, giving them the best chance to be thought of as an equal. Sports in general impact societal issues because they bring national attention to public matters such as sexual orientation. In recent years there has been a number of homosexual players that have tried to be iconic, but professional sports just doesn’t allow it. Even with the legality of same sex marriage and the strides the LGBTQ community has taken, it is still in a long battle with professional sports.
First and foremost, in such a large pool people, the American people will always look to go sports as kind of a getaway from reality. With this, the reality is that the viewership wouldn’t change much if the level of playing and the ability of the players stayed consistent no matter what type of individual is on the field. This makes the most sense, right? Wrong. Professional sports as a whole are actually hurting the acceptance of LGBTQ people and their community.
In a Time article written by Sean Gregory, he writes about the study, entitled ““Out On The Fields” and billed as “the first international study on homophobia in sport,” is a survey of nearly 9,500 people, mostly from six countries (the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand).“ The study concludes that over every three out of four people that belong to the LGB community have faced homophobia in sports. Moreover, “The study found the U.S. had the highest percentage of gay men reporting that they had received verbal threats in a sports environment, and the highest percentage of gay men who heard slurs. In fact, of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. ranked worst in sports homophobia and discrimination, as measured by the “inclusion score” developed by the researchers ” (Gregory). It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress with the acceptance of homosexuality in sports. But going by these results, we have a long way to go.
This brings us to Jason Collins, the first openly gay person in professional sports. In his testimony proclaiming his retirement, he dives into much more detail about how his homosexuality and professional career cross paths. In an article titled, I’m Out written by Jason Collins himself, he alludes to the hardships of his career. “Hey Jason … Jason! How come we never see you with any women? Are you gay?” The team bus was uncomfortably silent. Everybody from the front of the bus to the back heard the question. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. In sports, guys bust each other’s balls all the time. I had been asked that question a few different times by teammates in my previous years in the league, but this time was different. Whenever guys would go out on the town on road trips, I always had a built-in excuse—a trip to a local casino or a visit to a family friend or a college buddy in that city that I had to go see. Sometimes those friends were real. Sometimes I made them up and would sit alone in the hotel watching TV while the guys went out to enjoy the nightlife.” He is in a way letting everyone know through his dialect that the LGBTQ isn’t allowed in professional sports. Idolism is too powerful for the new generations not to listen to these athletes and try to live and be like them. So, when a gay professional athlete is coming out and pointing out that being gay was something that he was ashamed to tell his teammates on and off the court, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to delve into the idea that professional sports and LGBTQ don’t go hand in hand. Collins makes that clear in the statement “It felt like everybody on that bus was looking at me and could see right through me. Part of me was tired of running. Part of me wanted to scream out the truth and just get it over with, but I couldn’t. In a split second, that familiar survival instinct kicked in and I thought, Okay, I have to prove to these guys that I’m straight.”
Next is Michael Sam. Michael was the first openly gay athlete to declare for the draft in the National Football League. With little detail needed, “Starting the pre-draft ranked 90th by CBS Sports, it took just three hours for sports pundits to drop Sam by 70-points. Why did Sam’s sports stock drop so rapidly, moving down to 160th on their pick list? Apparently because CBS Sports knew something that I didn’t: being an openly gay man and a NFL player were not in the cards yet ” (Macarow). While Michael Sam came out and said that he believes that if anyone uses slanders and slurs than they are simply uneducated may be correct, but that is just the nature of the game. “An anonymous NFL assistant coach told SI that Sam was not drafted because franchise owners knew that an out gay player would disrupt a team’s dynamic: “There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle [a gay player] or deal with the thought of that. […] If you knowingly bring someone in [to the locker room] with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality “” (Macarow). A lot goes into the concept of professional sports. It’s more then just the players and coaches; it’s also the fans that attend the games. In addition, “Professional sports is fundamentally big business. The NFL alone raked in $7.24 billion in revenue last season. If franchise owners and team management sense homophobia in the stands, it is more likely that they would be likely to avoid out gay players — right or wrong. This in turn means less players coming out, less positive role models for younger LGB athletes and ultimately slower improvement in the diversity of pro teams ” (Macarow). In a business and unfortunate reasoning, if the fans don’t want it then the teams don’t need it.
All in all, professional sports are causing a delay in the spread of acceptance for the LGBTQ community. With the few athletes coming out and embracing their sexuality it has become apparent that professional sports as a whole haven’t come to grips with the idea yet. From players to coaches to the audience, progress still needs to be made for LGBTQ equality in national sports.
Collins, Jason. “I’m Out | by Jason Collins.” The Players Tribune. N.p., 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Gregory, Sean. “U.S. Ranks Worst in Sports Homophobia Study.” Time. Time, 09 May 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Macarow, Aron. “The Group Who’s Most Homophobic in Sports.” Attn:. N.p., 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.