The track of homosexuality in sports has been long, twisting and for the most part, very restrained. There have been very few athletes blazing a trail for gay tolerance among the top four professional athletic associations; the top four being the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. In fact, the early athletes who openly admitted their sexual orientation were women, participants of individual sports or retired athletes. The more popular male sports as the top four, have seemingly been opposed in accepting a gay teammate in the locker room. With this being said, one can understand why the gay athlete’s path has been so difficult and private.
The culture of sports has long been viewed as being extremely homophobic. Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender From the beginning of sports existence, athletes have been considered hyper-masculine and barbaric. Even women who participated in sports were often viewed as “manly”. However, the ever changing social climate and the sharp awareness of gay rights and same-sex couples, almost assures us that there will be a cultural shift in the sports world as we know it. The younger generation proves to be more accepting and laidback of homosexuality; thus, it will only be a matter of time until professional sports teams find a gay athlete on their roster. I ask you this, if gay tolerance is to be expected in the workplace, in the halls of our educational centers, in the United States Congress, and in the United States Armed Forces, then why should professional sports teams be excused?
It’s the year 2014 and looking back, we have seen our country undergo many civil movements and pass many civil laws eliminating discrimination. Our country is viewed as one of tolerance and fairness. We live in a nation in which we have been permitted to protest for the rights of African Americans, women, religion, and minorities, to mention a few. The country now finds itself during yet another controversial civil liberty protest; the rights of homosexuals and same-sex marriages. The bigger picture is of course, the social acceptance of homosexuals in general. It seems like we have seen similar processes when blacks wanted the same rights as whites, women wanted the same rights as men, and Jews wanted the same rights as Christians. Due to these important movements in history, our country has become more understanding and differentiated. Considering the progressions that our country has made regarding such civil liberties and freedoms, one would think that the sports culture of that nation would be equally tolerant. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Sports in America, specifically the popular four, football, basketball, baseball and hockey show little tolerance when it comes to being “different”. “Even though public opposition to same-sex marriage and gay rights is rapidly eroding, the locker rooms and clubhouses of the country’s four major sports leagues remain among the last bastions of homophobia in the U.S.” (Kevin Baxter, LA Times, Dec 2012) American sports teams have overcome racism, ethnicity and religious issues and yet, they struggle with the possibility of a gay teammate. “For all the publicity given to racial equality and ethnic diversity in sports, even specific campaigns to stamp out racism, there still remains an invisible barrier for gay athletes.” (Scott Gyurina, bleacherreport.com, Aug. 2010) Nevertheless of the steps we have made as a nation to be more accepting of homosexuals and their individual rights, it appears that the professional sports arena has some room to grow in being more accepting. Paving the road for gay athletes was a man by the name of David Kopay. He was a retired NFL running back when he came out and admitted he was gay. Kopay played for