I recently asked the question, “Is American professional sports becoming gay friendly?” and apparently the answer is yes. Since that post a little over a week ago, major sports figures have been coming out and more and more straight players are also coming out in support of equality. For example…
Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts shocked the sports world when he came out of the closet in a New York Times article last week, becoming the first openly gay professional sports team owner in America. Above is video of ESPN breaking the story about Welts and he appeared on NPR to talk about his decision to come out and the changing atmosphere for gays in sports.
Right after Welts’ big announcement, former Villanova all-star athlete Will Sheridan went on ESPN and came out publicly. In the above video he chats about how his teammates knew he was gay and it didn’t affect them or their game at all. He did however have to deal with some homophobic chants from sports fans.
Thursday Jared Max, one of the best-known voices in New York sports radio and current ESPN New York 1050 morning host of ‘Maxed Out in the Morning’, came out on his radio show.
Then the same day professional bowler Scott Norton came out in a piece he wrote for the Professional Bowlers Association, titled “Being gay doesn’t define who I am as a person or as a professional athlete.” Norton sites Welts’ courage as the reason he decided to come out.
And it hasn’t just been the gays chiming in. NBA legend Charles Barkley also made a statement of support for gay athletes after hearing about Welts’ coming out.
First of all, every player has played with gay guys. It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say: ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.
And The New York Times recently did an article called “Two Straight Athletes Combat Homophobia,” profiling international rugby star Ben Cohen and wrestling star Hudson Taylor, who are leading the fight against homophobia in sports internationally.
Grant Hill has also lent his name to equality. I’ve posted the PSA he appears in for the “Think Before You Speak” Campaign before, but he also has been going on talk shows to discuss to promote the PSA. In his below interview on CNN he says he’s “happy” for Wetls and cheers his courage to come out.
However, the road to full equality in American professional sports is a long way off. A fact that was proven just yesterday when Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was caught on film during a game yelling “f–k you, faggot” to a fan who was taunting him. The press has jumped all over the incident making references to the Kobe Bryant incident. Noah responded with: “I got caught up. I don’t mean no disrespect to anybody.” No word yet on if Noah will be receiving the same punishment as Bryant, who had to pay a $100,000 fine for her offensive wordplay. Here’s the video of Noah’s altercation with the fan:
[Long sigh] Baby steps, right?
JOAKIM NOAH UPDATE: According to a New York Times article, Noah was fined $50,000 by the NBA and made a public apology about the gay slur he used in Sunday’s game. (That was a quick turnaround!)
UPDATE #2: Following Sean Avery‘s lead, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash became the second professional sports player to appear in a video for HRC’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign. I wonder if he’ll get the same heat Avery got over this? The video is below.