Former NFL operating again Dave Kopay got here out as homosexual in 1975 after his profession had ended. Forty-five years later, there nonetheless hasn’t been an overtly homosexual NFL participant, regardless of swelling assist for homosexual rights, and the NFL getting absolutely on board with inclusivity — even producing its personal “Nationwide Coming Out Day” video this 12 months.
In a latest interview with the Related Press, Kopay expressed his frustration. “We now have homosexual marriage however we don’t have any overtly homosexual athletes within the NFL,” he mentioned. “It is not sensible.”
It’s price mentioning this specific dialog is essentially unique to elite male group sports activities. The ladies don’t have this dilemma. A few of our most distinguished feminine sports activities stars, from Sue Chook to Natasha Cloud to Megan Rapinoe, are overtly homosexual.
A document 15 overtly LGBTQ athletes competed within the 2018 Winter Olympics. School and highschool athletes come out on these pages each week. There are an growing variety of overtly LGBTQ sportswriters — together with six who write for us!
However as we (mercifully) shut the door on 2020, the variety of overtly homosexual athletes in professional male group sports activities continues to be nearly non-existent. Collin Martin performs within the United Soccer League and Zach Sullivan performs within the American Hockey League; Ryan Russell is an NFL free agent. However that’s about it — a minimum of right here within the U.S.
It’s a perplexing contradiction, and few are extra mystified than overtly homosexual athletes themselves. Former MLS participant Robbie Rogers, who got here out in 2013, advised the Chicago Tribune he’s uninterested in ready for others to comply with him — and that was 4 years in the past.
“I’m on the stage the place it’s sort of silly. What’s happening?,” Rogers mentioned. “I might by no means pressure anybody out, and everybody has their time, however come on, it’s 2016. Rather a lot has modified in the US and all over the world.”
Together with Rogers, a mini-wave of soccer and basketball gamers got here out in 2013-14. There was Jason Collins, Michael Sam and Derrick Gordon (who’s at present enjoying professional basketball in Cyprus). Britney Griner, one of the dominant ladies school basketball gamers in a technology, additionally got here out — however the world collectively shrugged.
The muted response to Griner’s announcement was a stark instance of the cultural variations between elite males’s and girls’s sports activities. As Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski advised the New York Occasions: “Are you able to think about if it was a person who did the very same factor? Everybody’s head would have exploded.”
That’s what occurred when Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend on TV when he was chosen within the 2014 NFL Draft. However his coaching camp run with the Los Angeles Rams went with out incident, besides when ESPN ridiculously reported on his bathe habits.
Sam’s teammates stood up for him.
The next 12 months, Sam confirmed he’s not the one homosexual participant across the NFL.
“I’m not the one homosexual particular person within the NFL,” he mentioned on the time. “I’m simply saying there may be lots of us. I respect the gamers that did attain out to me and had the braveness to inform me that they had been additionally homosexual, however they don’t have the identical braveness as I do to come back out earlier than I even performed a down within the NFL.”
Right now, Sam nonetheless speaks warmly of the assist he acquired from his school teammates on the College of Missouri.
Within the 2019 season alone, there have been a minimum of eight publicly out homosexual or bisexual gamers in school soccer.
It was additionally front-page information when Jason Collins got here out, and the response was overwhelmingly constructive. NBA superstars reminiscent of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James celebrated his announcement; In reality, practically 190 professional athletes instantly expressed their assist.
Bear in mind, this was 2013 — only one 12 months after President Barack Obama had introduced his assist for same-sex marriage.
Collins advised Reuters final 12 months he’s shocked no different gamers within the NBA have come out since him. “I’m slightly shocked that … since I’ve retired, that I haven’t seen every other NBA gamers come out publicly,” he mentioned.
The disconnect is stunning, as a result of the overwhelming majority of up to date out athletes, even in male group sports activities, have overwhelmingly constructive tales to share. A examine 60 coming-out tales on Outsports confirmed as a lot.
This 12 months, we noticed Martin’s group, the San Diego Loyal, forfeit a recreation and deprive themselves of a playoff berth after he mentioned an opposing participant had referred to as him a homosexual slur. It was an unimaginable present of assist.
In a latest interview with The Advocate, Martin mentioned the episode reveals the inclusivity of sports activities. He’s undecided why extra of his friends aren’t out.
“I don’t suppose there’s a higher time to come back out,” he mentioned. “Frankly, I don’t know what’s holding a few of these athletes again from popping out.”
“What’s holding them again?” It’s a query some overtly homosexual male athletes have been asking for years.
On the finish of 2020, it stays unanswered.