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Is Nascar Ready For An Openly Gay Driver?


As it turns out, auto racing was one of the first sports with an openly gay athlete – just no one knew about it. Back in 2003, Stephen Rhodes competed in the Camping World Truck Series. At the time, the driver was out but no one bothered to ask him about it. Now, after a 10 year absence from the world of racing, Rhodes is looking to make his return to the world of Nascar. When he returns in 2014, he will become the series’ first openly gay driver.

Rhodes, who came out when he was 17, sat down with the Speed Network to talk about what his return would mean for the sport and how fans might react.

“I don’t think going into a sport – having to face the ones that either like me or don’t like me – is anything any different than I live any day. I live in the South. I know that NASCAR has a conservative, Southern fan base, and I’m not going to try and change anyone’s minds and their opinions. They’re either going to like me or going to hate me. That’s just life in general, really.”

Reactions are already divided. The Bleacher Report collected tweets from fans that were for and against the driver. However, the real reaction will be seen when Rhodes gets behind the wheel next year.

Check out his full interview below:

[Photo: OutSports]

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  • muscl954

    Just shut the [email protected]&k up already about “the first openly gay” this or that! Why does it even matter. All this talk about wanting equality, but the media (including Queerty) has to point out just how “special” or “brave” or “courageous” being openly gay actually is. Just let people be who they are without the distinction of being recognized as the “first openly gay” anything. Does it really make that much difference, especially in auto racing? Do you really think that by acknowledging this guy being openly gay is going to open the door for other gay race car drivers? Who cares if you’re gay. Just drive the freakin’ car for god’s sake!

  • QuintoLover

    @muscl954: It SHOULDN’T matter. But guess what, we live in a world where small minded people rule the world and don’t want us around. If we hide and conform and don’t show them who we are, then we’re just giving them what we want. If there are no outspoken role models in basketball and baseball who say it’s okay to be gay, then that’s going to continue our youth to feel ashamed and that they shouldn’t be who they really are. But if we stand up now and say that we are human beings who can do exactly what you do and we happen to be gay, then we can work on being accepted faster. THEN after we get all our rights and are accepted can we forget about who’s gay or who’s straight or whatever. But that’s not going to happen for a long time in our narrow world.

  • trelin

    I believe the community enjoys seeing how somebody that’s openly gay can accomplish and take on jobs that have been seen as a primarily heterosexually-driven career choice, especially those seen in the public eye such as music, film, tv, sports, and politics. It gives the gay-community a sense of “weight,” where we are another step closer to equality, as well as another step closer to a point where sexuality isn’t a game-changer in the career world, and it is simply who one goes home to as the end of the day, and nothing more.

    I can understand why some would want to believe that it really doesn’t matter, but sadly, we’re not there yet within our society. Sexuality is still a underlined word in our community. Luckily, the tides are changing.

  • kjm22

    “Is so-and-so ready for an openly gay person?” seems to be a common headline these days.

    Should it matter if a certain sports league or organization is “ready” or not? I don’t think so. It’s 2013 and there will always be bigots but by asking that question, it’s almost like we’re seeking their approval which is nothing we should have to do.

  • Aaron in Honolulu

    @muscl954: Being “openly” gay in sports, politics, entertainment, corporate, or any profession gives our younger gay generation the courage to do anything they desire without the fear of being themselves. Gay people often grow up dealing with an immense amount of shame and seeing someone in the limelight be open about themselves is inspiring to me. I feel empowered. Being silent has shown that it doesn’t help our community at all. Exposure will always shed fear, little by little.

  • SewperDewper

    All I see is a dude standing next to a car with a nut-cup taped to the window. Anyone else?

  • jwrappaport

    @muscl954: It matters because we live in a society where sexual orientation matters, from the rights you’re allowed to enjoy to how you’re treated at work and at home. “Who cares if you’re gay?” you ask. I’ll tell you who: legislators, politicians, judges, cops, our military leaders, oh, and the overwhelming majority of human beings alive in the world right now. We should ideally want to live in a world where people are alike in dignity, but I do not want to live in one in which the above distinctions simply don’t exist.

    I love that I can walk into a gay bar and scream show tunes with two generations of Judy queens whom I just met. I love that I can share a laugh with my gay friends over how weird people on Grindr can be. I also love that most first dates of mine involve sharing coming out stories and what it was like growing up gay or bisexual. In so many words, I love being different – I love being part of a weird, vibrant, and even rich community whose shared experiences most straight people just can’t personally understand.

  • jwrappaport

    Also, I hate to say it, but watching strangers drive around 200 times in a giant circle seems like a perfect way not to have a good time. Podracing I could see being cool, but I just don’t get the appeal of NASCAR.

  • kjm22

    @jwrappaport: You expressed very well the same reasons why I truly love being gay. I think many of us have gone through a time (usually before coming out) where we wished we were straight… life seemed like it would have been infinitely easier that way. But after coming out, I started to see the major benefits of being attracted to the same sex.

  • MK Ultra

    You know, the only way we’ll find out if any arena is ready for the first openly gay so and so is when that first openly gay person comes out. If they are successful in the given arena, that will be a major victory for all of us.
    The fact is, it bothers social conservatives that we are getting so much exposure, and that we are in places where they traditionally wouldn’t think to look for us. When we’re invisible, we’re silent.
    Well those days are long gone. They can complain all they want. This is our time.

  • rdujetz

    The “Redneck Nation” won’t stand for it.

  • hf2hvit

    I have a hard time understanding how a race car driver is an “athlete”

  • hf2hvit

    @jwrappaport: The appeal? All those smelly ass rednecked men who get itchy ass the drunker they get while smelling the testosterone of other smelly ass rednecked men

  • LadyL

    Queerty flagged my comment because of my multiple clicks “reply” clicks, so let me try again:@MK Ultra: Thank you for your comment, eloquently said.
    And @QuintoLover @trelin @Aaron in Honolulu @jwrappaport: Love your replies also, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Comments are closed.