Friday, February 09, 2007

The Closeted Gay Athlete

According to this story by ESPN's Chris Sheridan, former NBA center John Amaechi is - or is about to be - the first current or former NBA player to come out of the closet. While many are impressed by the courage that Amaechi is showing, gay sportswriter (and I hate using the phrase "gay sportswriter," as though one's sexual orientation had anything to do with one's career writing about sports) LZ Granderson is not. In this thoughtful and provocative piece, Granderson laments that, once again, it is an ex athlete coming out of the closet. In it Granderson writes:

An athlete in 2007 who stays in the closet during his playing days does more to support homophobia in sports than coming out after retirement does to combat it.

Granderson - who in coming out of the closet took a lot of heat from the sports world - has little patience, it seems, for those who hide the truth about themselves when honesty would be dangerous, only to reveal it when it would not only be safe, but even lucrative (Amaechi is now promoting a book, to be released Feb. 20).

I'm not here to praise or curse Amaechi. I'm neither gay, nor much of an athlete, so it is quite possible that I don't understand either culture, much less the intersection of both. But I do wonder why it is evidently such big news that a basketball player is gay. Statistically speaking, it is highly probable that at least one - if not more - player on each NBA team is gay. That so many choose to remain in the closet speaks to the latent (and not so latent) homophobia in the male sports world; a world in which homosexuality is evidently a threat to the masculinity that is perceived as necessary for athletic excellence.

I do, however, share Granderson's desire for the next pioneering soul to come out of the closet to be one who is still playing, so that we can finally put to death the stereotype that gay men just aren't manly enough to be great athletes.

1 comment:

crystal said...

I think this often happens with actors too - not many will be openly gay until they retire, perhaps because being straight is perceived as essential to a sucessful career in their field.