Ex-Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo continues to fight for same-sex marriage rights in the US.
APR 22, 2013 2:31 PM ET
Brendon Ayanbadejo is a 10-year NFL veteran who last played with the Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens and is a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage rights. In August 2012, Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns Jr. wrote an open letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti requesting Ayanbadejo cease and desist all public support of marriage equality after Ayanbadejo donated Ravens tickets to help fundraise for marriage equality in Maryland. A law allowing same-sex marriages in the state eventually passed in late 2012 and took effect Jan. 1.
While the equality treadmill under most of our feet is moving at a high rate of speed, I would imagine this journey is not traveling fast enough for many Americans whose lives are directly impacted by the possibility of change.
Consider tennis hall of famer Billie Jean King, who was outed in 1981 when her relationship with another woman became public, and Greg Louganis, the four-time Olympic gold medal-winning American diver, who came out some seven years after King.
With more than 55 years combined of public scrutiny of their sexuality, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricts some federal marriage benefits to only opposite-sex couples, and Prop 8, California’s state law restricting same-sex marriage can’t come soon enough for these two American heroes and California residents who have forever shaped the face of their respective sports.
Yet, we still have such a long journey ahead of us. Draconian policies such as “don’t ask, don’t tell” are a thing of the past, and with the quickly approaching U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the repeal of DOMA and Prop 8 in June, it appears as if we are on the precipice of a more progressive and accepting America.
It is quite hard to fathom that, in two years, we have nearly doubled the amount of states that have legalized marriage equality. In this time, New York, Maryland, Maine and Washington have approved same-sex marriage, bringing the total number of states that allow it to nine, as well as the District of Columbia.
Equal marriage rights are on the radar for Illinois, Delaware, Rhode Island and nine other states by the end of 2014. A March 2013 FOX News poll on same-sex marriage shows that 49 percent of Americans believe in same-sex marriage while 46 percent are in opposition. Support is up 32 percent from 2003.
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While LGBTQ Americans can bravely and proudly serve our country in battle and even die protecting our freedom overseas, it is still perfectly legal in 29 states, to fire someone because he or she is a part of the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ Americans do not, under DOMA, currently have any federal rights. There are so many things wrong with this picture. And, as many of us openly support and fight for equal rights in this community, we are also left asking ourselves questions about why many who identify as LGBT or Q are still so hesitant to join the fight.
Brittney Griner came out on Thursday, saying people should “just be who you are.” But being who you are in the four major professional sports isn’t accepted.
When will a male athlete come out in the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL?
Even as it appears American pop culture is ready to accept a gay male athlete, the stratified sporting culture might not be quite as keen on the idea of our favorite NFL player scoring touchdowns on Sundays and celebrating in Chelsea (NYC) or Hillcrest (San Diego) on Sunday nights with his boys after a hard-fought victory.
I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with it.
Corporate America doesn’t, either.
It’s time to plan work and family weddings as the NFL releases the dates and times for this year’s games.
Corporate America is frothing at the mouth, waiting for a gay superstar to take the sporting culture by the reins. Companies such as Levi’s, American Airlines, Google, and Starbucks are huge money makers, but also morality moguls in corporate America, having been rated in the top LGBTQ friendly corporations.
And just like the infamous “Bo knows” marketing campaign by Nike, I could also see a sneaker and apparel giant backing a superstar athlete with a “gay is great” campaign.
Make no mistake, the LGBTQ community’s buying power is something corporate America is keeping its eye on. The overall spending power of this growing demographic is projected to be well over $2 trillion in 2013, by some estimations.
I personally have stopped patronizing all retailers that are not LGBTQ friendly. Not only are these corporations losing out on LGBTQ dollars, but also straight dollars from family and friends of the LGBTQ community.
The most important company yet to weigh in on the issue of gays in sports is the NFL itself.
The NFL is the most popular and most-watched sport in the U.S., capturing some 59 percent of the entire U.S. population as viewers. With 1,696 players on its opening day rosters, the NFL is also the largest professional sports league in North America.
The NHL has 690 players; the NBA has 450 players; and MLB has 750 players total on its 25-man rosters, for a total of 1,890 professional athletes.
The lowest estimations say that about three percent of the population at large is gay. If you extrapolate that number across these 3,586 pro athletes, that would equate to 107 or 108 professional gay athletes, with 50 or 51 of them in the NFL.
Yet to this day we still have not heard of an athlete coming out during his playing career in any of our four professional sports. The NHL has a leg up on the other three leagues because of its alliance with the “You Can Play Foundation” that supports LGBTQ athletes.
The other three leagues have a faint footprint, or none at all, in supporting or aligning with a LGBTQ organization.
What are they waiting for?
If we hope to close one of the last closets in America, I would call upon the NFL to be proactive and align with an LGBTQ organization, something that it has not done publicly yet.
When the NFL does take such action, maybe players will be more at liberty to feel not only that they can be themselves at the workplace, but also that their employer has their best interest at heart and not just the bottom line. I would even argue that profits would increase if there were a gay player on the roster. At the end of the day, I have played with several gay athletes in my tenure with the NFL. I just didn’t know it!
Kerry Rhodes’ alleged boyfriend chatted exclusively with BOSSIP to talk about his down-low relationship with the famous NFL baller….
Kerry Rhodes’ Alleged Gay Lover Talks About Secret Relationship
It shouldn’t matter if Kerry Rhodes is gay or not, but when the player came out publicly and said he wasn’t gay, he opened a Pandora’s box. Not only a pandora box but the wrath of a very scorned ex-lover.
Meet Russell “Hollywood” Simpson, the man who has been photographed boo’d up with the NFL baller who is now ready to tell his side of the story.
Bossip: So how did you meet Kerry Rhodes?
Russell: I met him at an NFL training camp. A friend of mine was up there trying to get hired as a player’s assistant and I kinda tagged along. I don’t wanna be anyone’s assistant and I basically helped my friend get to Arizona (Cardinals) to get a job. We went up the hotel suite and Kerry was up there. We talked and that was about it. I later went back to North Carolina and he called me wanting me to come back to Arizona to help manage his assistants and personal team. We started dating about 2 months after and then got in a relationship.
Bossip: What were your duties as Kerry’s boyfriend? Did his teammates know about you?
Russell: I was like his wife. I ran the household and took care of all his personal needs. If anyone needed anything from Kerry they came to me! That’s what Kerry loved about me. i didn’t take no sh*t from nobody. Kerry is kinda a dumb athlete, like a dumb jock. So, I took care of things that he didn’t understand. And yes, his teammates did know about me. It was kinda unspoken but I was at all his training camps and events. The other wives knew and loved me too. I was always there. It was no secret!
How was your sex life with Kerry? Was he top or power bottom?
*laughs* It was great! It was very passionate because we were so in love. Of course he was the top! I’m not doing all that damn work! But, we were extremely close. It was very good and he put it on me!
Hit the flip for more of the interview with Kerry’s ex-boyfriend as he talks about their relationship, the lavish gifts that was bought for him and how to tell if a NFL baller is gay.
Bossip: Did you ever encounter any other gay football players?
Russell: Well, I don’t know. All of his teammates in Arizona (Cardinals) know about me. But you would see guys with a lot of male assistants who always surrounded themselves with men but it wasn’t openly discussed. So I don’t know if they were gay but you know…
How did you feel when Kerry denied being gay? Did he reach out to you?
Yes he actually text me like “Hey baby, can you just not say anything about all this” but that’s what I don’t like. He’s lying because he’s trying to protect his free agency. He’s not going to be one of those guys who come out in the league because he cares too much about that. But why is he lying?? LOOK AT THE PICS!! He loved me and now he’s lying. That’s why I put him out there because he came for me. I’m not here for fame. He wanted me to have a reality show because he said I was destined for it. His teammates said I had a great personality and encouraged me to be on TV. This was our life! This was real!
I had an engagement ring he gave me. Look at some of the pics and I am wearing a promise ring he gave me. We were in love and it was real. But now look at him! He’s lying and looking like a real dumbazz. Why couldn’t he just STFU and no even said anything. He had to deny it like I wasn’t real. Like, I never existed. What the hell?? We filmed that reality show together, he has hours of footage of me and him together for the show. I have NOTHING to hide! I’m grown as hell and have nothing lie about.
Kerry Rhodes is gay. That’s the truth.
Last night, the American gossip website Mediatakeout splashed the provactive pics of NFL player Kerry Rhodes embracing his male assistant. Immediately, people began speculating if Rhodes is the first gay NFL player to come out. However, Rhodes told TMZ he is not gay as he attempted to squash the gay rumours. The fact that Rhodes felt the need to announce his heterosexuality is not surprising. The problem is the intense media attention about this elusive gay male athlete means the general public is now paying close attention ttrying to figure out who these gay athletes are. This just puts even more pressure on the closeted athletes to remain in the closet.
Although the mainstream North American media want a gay male athlete from the NFL, NHL, NBA, or MLB to come out I am not sure if it is going to happen. There are numerous arguments as to why a top male athlete has not come out. The gay community is also to blame because we place so much of our expectations on gay celebrities. We forget that gay celebrities are also people they have flaws, they aren’t perfect, yet we expect them to live up to our impossible unrealistic standards.
For instance, Robbie Rogers the young American soccer player came out as gay a few months ago on his blog. However, on Queerty, Towelroad, and other gay blogs Rogers was attacked and called a coward because he refused to be the gay Jackie Robinson. Rogers told The Guardian, and the New York Times that there is a pack mentality in the sports lockerooms. The heterosexual men use gay slurs, and make jokes about homosexuals. Rogers doesn’t want to deal with the homophobia and I can’t blame the man. Who would want to be subjected to abuse? Rogers is also worried about fans in soccer giving him a hard time when he is competing. This is probably going to happen if a gay man does come out in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. When the first gay male athlete comes out it is going to be a mixed response. Some people are going to be supportive while others are going to be homophobic.
Meanwhile, female athletes are already coming out and declaring they are lesbians yet they are treated with such disregard and disrespect. In Nigeria, there is new controversy that their soccer Federation is screening out lesbian athletes from joining the women’s soccer team. In North America, lesbian athletes and coaches in women’s basketball also experience discrimination.
Last year, Megan Rapinoe a top American female soccer player came out declaring she is a lesbian yet there was hardly any media attention. Rapinoe brave decision to come out was treated like an afterthought, as though it didn’t matter. Why are courageous lesbian athletes treated with such disdain as though they don’t matter? Rapinoe’s decision to come out is amazing, she’s not afraid of speaking out about homophobia in sports but because she’s a woman she’s treated as inferior by the sports media.
The misogyny of the mainstream sports media is often ignored about the struggles and contributions of lesbian athletes. In professional tennis the only players coming out are the lesbians not the gay men. In modern tennis history numerous lesbians have come out such as Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Amelie Mauresmo, Renee Stubbs, Gigi Fernandez, Conchita Martinez, and Lisa Raymond. Lesbians are treated with respect on the WTA Tour. However, on the ATP men’s tennis tour no gay man has come out since Bill Tidlen in the 1920s.
Even though, professional tennis is an individual sport the gay male tennis players on the ATP Tour are not coming out. The question remains why?
The unknown is a barrier for the gay male athletes, nobody knows what the reaction of sponsors, agents, media, fans, are going to be. Since nobody wants to take the first step to come out the closet door remains firmly shut. The internet is also a lightning rod of homophobia in the fan forums such as ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports the homophobia is intense. The
core message of the homophobes online is they want a don’t don’t tell policy to remain intact. The homophobes believe if a gay male athlete comes out he’s being selfish, taking attention away from the team and coming out in order to obtain media attention. This argument is weak because homosexuality is still viewed as being private while heterosexuality is treated as public in society. Heterosexual male athletes broadcast their girlfriends, wives, children, talk about their marriages, their love lives to the media. Meanwhile, the gay male athletes have to hide their sexual orientation in order to maintain the peace.
The homophobic comments on blogs are adamant they will not accept a gay male athlete. This homophobia online is often ignored in the press. The subliminal message is masculinty and homosexuality are like oil and water they don’t mix. A gay male athlete would challenge the homophobia that a gay man cannot be masculine and cannot excel in professional sports.
The closeted gay male athletes of course, read the sports websites, they know some sports fans are homophobic and this is probably one of the reasons they remain in the closet.
Another point to consider is, maybe these gay male athletes don’t want to be the gay Jackie Robinson? Maybe, these gay male athletes don’t want the intense media and public attention? Think about it, a gay man who is closeted can live his life discreetly he can date whomever he wants, and nobody knows.
It is interesting that the gay activism in the NFL have been the heterosexual allies such as Chris Kluwe and Brendan Ayanbadjeo. Ayanbadjeo was criticized by the gay media when he announced last week that up to four gay NFL players might come out at the same time. I believe the gay media attacking Ayanbadjeo is counterproductive because he has been very passionate and vocal about gay rights. Ayanbadjeo didn’t have to speak out about homophobia in the NFL he could have kept his mouth closed and followed the status quo.
Sometimes the gay community we are our own worse enemy. I think the gay male athletes are cognizant that if they do come out the gay community is going to put so much pressure on these men to become gay activists. Robbie Rogers has already illustrated that it isn’t fair to expect so much from a gay male athlete. All these guys want to do is compete, play sports, make their money and be the best they can be. The media, the gay community, and the general public need to dial down their expectations of gay athletes.
According to former Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, we could see a gay NFL player “sooner than you think.” There could be as many as four announcements from players around the league, all on the same day.
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was released by Baltimore this offseason, and on the heels of comments earlier this week where he suggested that he was cut in part because of his outspoken stance on gay rights and equality issues, Ayanbadejo clarified himself to the Baltimore Sun on Friday. During an hour-long interview he made it clear that he harbors no resentment for the Ravens, and respects them for the support they offered him throughout his career both on and off the field. But that’s not all.
When the conversation turned to his work with gay rights and the question of when we might see an openly gay player in the NFL, Ayanbadejo had this to say:
“I think it will happen sooner than you think,” Ayanbadejo said. “We’re in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.”
Ayanbadejo’s release not related to advocacy
The 36-year old linebacker says he was misquoted in a report claiming his release was related to his stance on gay rights. He took to Twitter to defend his former team.
In other words, everyone prepare themselves for the most insane day of the NFL offseason in human history. A day to make the sports world explode, basically.
And it would be awesome.
The one reason to worry about an NFL player coming out as gay would be the inevitable avalanche of horrible jokes, hateful responses, and insane scrutiny, all directed at one human being. Nobody deserves that, and it would be ugly. But as Ayanbadejo says, “If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive.”
In addition to muting the backlash toward any one player, four players coming out in four different cities — AT THE SAME DAMN TIME — would get all kinds of love and support, too, spreading the acceptance around the country, making this a more universal sign of progress in the NFL and the sports world, in general.
“It’s cool. It’s exciting,” says Ayanbadejo of the possibility. “We’re in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We’ll see what happens.” Yes we will.
I am very pleased that Kwame Harris the former NFL player decided to come out of the closet and talk about his homosexuality. We need more black gay men in the pop culture to come out and let people know it is okay to be black and gay. It is sad that that Kwame didn’t feel he could come out of the closet during his NFL career. The homophobia in the NFL is still very strong. According to a CBS reporter Mike Freeman, a closeted gay man in the NFL is thinking about coming out and continuing his career.
Robbie Rogers came out of the closet last month and recently he conducted two interviews with the Guardian and the New York Times. Rogers gave very candid answers he acknowledged that he retired from soccer because he believes he cannot be openly gay and compete. However, on numerous gay websites such as Outsports.com, Queerty, Towleroad, gay men have attacked Rogers calling him a coward. What right do people have to make Robbie Rogers into something he doesn’t want to be? The pressure for a gay male athlete to become the gay Jackie Robinson is a lot of pressure.
How can gay men call Rogers a coward when gay men we know how hard it is to come out? The crabs in the barrel syndrome is so common in the gay community it is disgusting!
Rogers also stated that since he came out no closeted gay male soccer players have emailed him or contacted him he was disappointed. The fear the gay male athletes have in professional sports is very real.
The mainstream media, are very politically correct, everyone is saying the right things, that the time is right for a gay male athlete to come out in a team sport. However, if the time is right why hasn’t anyone done it? Why? Why is it in the year 2013, no professional male athlete has come out in the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, golf, tennis, soccer? If society is so progressive as people say why is there still this intense fear that the closeted gay male athletes have?
According to Rogers, he only came out to his family in October 2012. The young man is clearly still struggling to accept his homosexuality. In the New York Times, Rogers says he doesn’t go to gay bars and he doesn’t pick up men. Rogers seems brand new, he is still trying to make sense of his life as an openly gay man. Rogers is also a Catholic, his family is very religious.
The gay community we are our own worst enemy. Some gay people place so much expectations on gay celebrities to be role models to push the gay movement forward. Yet some gay and lesbian people, don’t care to understand some gay stars don’t want to be spokespersons for the movement.
For instance, Jodie Foster the Academy award-winning lesbian actress refuses to be a gay role model and I applaud Foster’s decision. Foster is a very private woman, and she’s living her life on her own terms not for the gay community but for herself. In Robbie Roger’s case, he knows more about the homophobia in professional soccer than the general public. Rogers says the straight male soccer players are hypocritical, on the one hand they claim to support Rogers yet he says they also make gay jokes in the change room.
I think people expect too much from gay celebrities, we place our goals, dreams, and aspirations on these people yet we forget they are people too. Robbie Rogers has done a lot of good just by coming out. If Rogers doesn’t want to compete in professional soccer again it is his personal choice. No one has the right to lecture to Rogers that he must become the gay Jackie Robinson. Rogers is cognizant, he will be subjected to homophobia from fans, and perhaps even other soccer players if he competed again. Rogers feels he can’t handle dealing with gay slurs and negativity when he is competing. Rogers is being honest, he probably doesn’t want to be placed on to a pedestal and have the media put so much scrutiny on him. The pressure to be perfect would be overwhelming.
On March 15th 2013, Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz won his second professional boxing match since coming out as a gay man. Cruz defeated Aalan Martinez with a knockout in the sixth round. Cruz is currently the only professional male athlete out of the closet in North America. Now think about it, no gay male athlete is out in the NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL, they are all in the closet. No professional golfer or male tennis pro is out! So why are the vast majority of gay male athletes in pro sports not coming out?
There are numerous theories for the reasons gay male athletes in professional sports choose to remain closeted. The obvious one is money, some gay male athletes probably fear coming out means they might lose sponsorship deals. Another reason is, gay male athletes worry the media scrutiny might be intense and they lose their privacy. Some people believe sexuality is a private matter.
In professional sports, it is obvious heterosexuality is not only present it is engendered in the media. The media obsess over the heterosexual pro athletes love lives in the press. However, homosexuality is still treated as though it should be private and not public. Gay people should not feel ashamed about being gay and that’s why Orlando Cruz is a hero! Orlando Cruz is illustrating through competing active in boxing he’s a proud gay man and that takes a lot of guts.
The general public and the media are cognizant that there are gay men in pro sports yet these men are reticent to reveal their sexuality.
Last month, Robbie Rogers a professional American soccer player did come out of the closet but he also quit at the tender age of twenty five. Rogers wrote an eloquent essay on his blog about the struggles he had to deal with in his life. Rogers has stepped away from professional soccer.
However, Orlando Cruz is out and a proud gay man he’s competing in boxing yet he’s not getting the press coverage he deserves.
One argument is, it is easier for Orlando Cruz to come out because boxing is an individual sport but it wasn’t easy for him at all. Cruz came out after getting the support of his mother, his trainers, and he did it for himself to live his life on his own terms. Cruz has a tremendous amount of courage and mental strength to come out and compete professionally in boxing.
So, why isn’t Orlando Cruz on the cover of the gay magazines or mainstream publications? Is it an issue of race? Is it because Cruz isn’t white? Is it because Cruz is a boxer and not competing in a professional team sport?
The image of the gay man in mainstream North America is a very myopic one. Usually, the stereotypical image is of a young, white, middle to upper class college educated white homosexual man. Television shows like Glee and Modern Family engender this white gay male image.
Orlando Cruz isn’t the first gay man to come out in professional sports but he’s one of the few to come out while his career is still active. It is important to point out, gay male athletes usually come out after their career ends because they have nothing to lose.
Cruz deserves so much credit because he as a Latino gay man he is challenging the homophobia within his own community and the boxing community.
It is disappointing though, that Cruz despite his success isn’t getting the media coverage he deserves due to his race and cultural background.
Cruz is a real hero because he knows there are homophobes in the boxing community who resent the fact he’s openly gay yet he isn’t hiding in the closet.
Boxing is a very macho sport, Orlando Cruz is a hero to the Puerto Rican community he is smashing the stereotypes that a gay man cannot be masculine, strong, and be a good athlete. Cruz is also a very successful boxer. However, Orlando Cruz isn’t white he’s Latino. The mainstream and gay press seem to want the gay Jackie Robinson to be a white gay man not a gay man of colour.
According to NBC sports journalist Mike Florio, NFL executives are secretly worried that Manti Te’o is gay. Florio tells radio host Dan Patrick that the NFL teams are fearful of signing Manti Te’o because they are worried his sexuality might be a distraction. The conversation starts at the 2:50 mark. Florio states that, NFL teams want to know Manti Te’o sexuality because they are concerned whether he is a risk or not. However, Florio’s comments about the NFL are disturbing but not surprising.
The level of homophobia in men’s professional sports is still a serious problem. Manti Te’o already told Katie Couric a few weeks ago he isn’t gay. Unfortunately, some people in the NFL don’t believe Manti Te’o is telling the truth. Why should Manti Te’o sexual orientation matter anyway? Why do people care? Florio does make a cogent argument the lockeroom is a homophobic place where the straight men are fearful of gay men. A gay male athlete still has not come out in one of the four major team sports in America. I think this Manti Te’o controversy proves the men’s sports culture is still extremely homophobic. Even if Manti Te’o isn’t gay, he is going to be crucified and criticized by opposing teams when he reaches the NFL.
For what seems like a lifetime, those who follow gay issues in sports have been addressing the same tiresome series of questions: “Is America ready for an openly gay athlete in one of the four major team sports?” “When will a current player finally come out?” “How will it affect the locker room?”
The list goes on.
While we wait patiently for a major athlete to come out and put these questions to rest, at least we can see our dreams (and, at times, our nightmares) play out in Hollywood.
Last week, USA Network’s Necessary Roughness became the latest in a long line of TV shows to imagine an athlete’s coming-out process. The depiction of quarterback Rex Evans making the decision to come out as a gay man has largely been treated with care, compassion and complexity.
The storyline reflects evolving attitudes toward LGBT equality in American culture, and it differs from previous coming-out plots in that Rex isn’t fired or forced onto injured reserve. But there is one trait that Rex Evans shares with most of his fictional gay athlete predecessors:
I am currently researching the history of LGBT athletes on television for a study that is due out this fall, but one doesn’t need a content analysis to see that an overwhelming majority of gay athletes depicted in entertainment media are white.
The gay quarterback from Showtime’s Queer as Folk? White. The gay tight end from ESPN’s Playmakers? White. Eric Dane as a gay quarterback in the movie Valentine’s Day, the gay defensive back on ABC’s Coach and even the animated gay jock from ParaNorman? White, white and… white. I am still searching the annals of TV history, but so far the list of portrayals of gay athletes of color seems to be limited to Santana, the Latina lesbian cheerleader from Glee; Calvin, the African-American hockey/football player from Greek; and Theo, the African-American backup quarterback from Arli$$, who combats gay rumors by purposely getting photographed in a hot tub with two underage girls.
Of course, diversity problems are nothing new in Hollywood. Even after years of media diversity advocacy, TV is still largely white (only 22 percent of all broadcast TV characters this season are people of color) and largely straight (4 percent of characters are LGBT). Drilling down deeper, LGBT people of color have always been plagued by invisibility in media, but the lack of LGBT athletes of color on TV is particularly befuddling because it is so wildly dissimilar from real life. Over 82 percent of the NBA, 70 percent of the NFL and 39 percent of MLB are made up of people of color, so when the first active player in one of these sports does decide to come out, there is a pretty good chance he won’t look like the TV versions that precede him.
Television portrayals of LGBT characters have long been on a steady ascent, not only in number but in complexity of character. Characters from shows like Will & Grace, Modern Family and The New Normal have done wonders for changing hearts and minds on LGBT equality, but they have also contributed to the lack of visibility for non-white LGBT people. This is particularly troubling considering that a 2012 Gallup poll found that white people are the least likely group to identify as LGBT (3.2 percent, compared with 4.6 percent of African Americans).
Television isn’t the only problem, though; the perception that openly gay athletes are predominately white also seems to exist in the real world, via the rumor mill. OutSports maintains a historical archive of gay rumors in professional sports, and the most prominent professional athletes who have faced rumors about their sexuality have been predominately white. It isn’t exclusively white, but for every Kordell Stewart there are many more Troy Aikmans, Steve Youngs and Mike Piazzas fighting off the gay rumors.
The athletes who have came out after their career’s end and those who have come out in other sports have told a very different story than the fictional gay athletes on TV and in the rumor mill. This list includes African-American athletes like Glenn Burke and Wade Davis, Latino athletes like Orlando Cruz, Asian Pacific Islander athletes like Esera Tualo and even some white athletes like Billy Bean.
The reality is that years down the line (or much sooner than that, if you believe this recent ESPN.com poll), when there are many active openly gay players in the four major sports, they will reflect a wide spectrum of diversity, and hopefully entertainment media will start portraying this diversity accurately.