“I think we’re about five-to-seven years off, to be honest. I don’t think it’ll happen before 2016, 2017 at the earliest—we’re a lot further off than we’d like to be,” Wade Davis, Jr., out former NFL cornerback and LGBT advocate told Buzzfeed. “The media still hasn’t totally embraced the idea of what it means to be gay, especially in the sports world. There are still a lot of athletes that still use homophobic slurs when they’re frustrated, and every time that’s done that’s a step back.”
GLAAD’s Director of News and Field Media, Aaron McQuade, echoed Davis’ statements, saying, “I think it will happen within the decade. Remember that pro athletes enter the major leagues in their late teens or early twenties. Kids who are growing up now—seeing their heroes talk about how you need respect and teamwork to be a champion—those are the kids who will be tomorrow’s superstars.”
McQuade and Athlete Ally‘s Hudson Taylor were part of a recent video presentation to the NBA’s rookie 2011-12 and 2012-13 classes, educating the legendary upcoming athletic children on “what it means to be an ally to the LGBT community in the context of sports, the importance of being an ally, and how professional athletes can go about being allies,” according to a GLAAD press release.
Athlete Ally works to address LGBT issues in sports, and both it and GLAAD are offering an “open-door” policy for professional athletes to express their questions, comments or concerns about LGBT issues, either on or off the record.
The ultimate goal is to provide a framework to allow a professional athlete to come out comfortably, whether from NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL or whatever athletic abbreviation the kids are using nowadays. But the road is still being paved and it still seems awful long.
Five years? Sure, one must consider the team dynamic, which dates back to the playground for most of these guys. But isn’t there also a camaraderie and a sense of family to a team? A “we’re all in this together so let’s go out there and give ’em hell” spirit recycled time and time again in every Disney sports movie (our frame of reference)?
GLAAD, Athlete Ally and another inclusive athletic support network, You Can Play, are trying to appeal to that feeling. And education is certainly the key—as role models, these athletes are responsible for knowing the repercussions of their words and actions. Whether they learn from them is another story, but at least the initial education can be there. And maybe they’ll at least think twice before calling someone a faggot in the heat of competition.
[insert a “The More You Know” shooting star here]
You Can Play co-founder Patrick Burke says there are certain major leaguers out to select teammates, but that’s as far as that ball rolls. He is confident, though, that the first openly gay player’s coming out will be a watershed moment on par, perhaps, with Jackie Robinson integrating baseball.
Burke told Buzzfeed: “There’s not going to be another player in the next 20 years who has the same impact. The first athlete who comes out is going to have 100 times more of an impact than Sidney Crosby or LeBron James. Or anyone else.”
Is a statue enough to knock down the locker-room closet door before 2016?