By Nick Barene, Sports Writer
Although there have been professional athletes who have come out as gay in the past, the topic is now at the forefront of the national sports media. Over the past year and half, there have been several athletes from the most popular American sports who chose to come out as gay.
Just this week, UMass guard Derrick Gordon announced that he is gay, making him the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player. Gordon is one of many athletes to come out. Gordon joins Michael Sam, an NFL prospect and former Mizzou Tiger.
The case of Sam will be particularly interesting to watch unfold. No player in the NFL has ever come out as gay while playing, and only a handful have come out after retiring. Sam will be the first openly gay active player in the NFL, as he certainly has the talent to be a mid-round draft pick.
Many fans and even some analysts have said that professional sports teams will shy away from signing openly gay players because they are too much of a distraction for the media. But one thing professional sports has proven is that if you help the team win, they’ll keep you around.
The reactions from teammates of virtually every player who has come out as gay have been positive and supportive.
The NFL in particular is known for having players who commit crimes ranging from sexual assault and domestic violence to crimes committed with weapons and drug charges. Fans shouldn’t be upset that a player in the NFL loves the person he wants to love.
Instead, they should be upset that every year, dozens of players are charged with crimes that actually cause harm to other human beings. If a team can look past crimes as serious as these, surely they can look past a player’s sexuality.
One thing that remains to be seen is how fans will react to gay players at the stadium. Since coming out, both Gordon and Sam have yet to see playing time. Both players have said they expect there will be some fans who will not treat them with respect, but thus, far the reaction from many fans has been supportive.
It isn’t the fans who are making a big deal about players coming out, or the player’s teammates, or their coaches. It’s the national media that is creating controversy over these players. The concerns they raise, that fans won’t accept them or teammates and coaches won’t accept them, have all been shot down nearly immediately.
Athletes have come out as gay in the past, but an openly gay player in one of the top sports in America — football, basketball and baseball — is still quite a rare thing.
In the coming years, we will begin to see more and more players come out in the top leagues of American sports. We will see large media outlets regard the subject as one of controversy.