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January 24, 2013

Coming Out as a Gay Athlete, Part Drei

In case you haven't seen the headlines or you don't follow sports news, an eyebrow-raising story broke in the last week or so about a top college football star who lied about a "girlfriend" whom he met online and with whom he had a relationship.  Now, the story is still unfolding, but the reactions I saw to the whole situation were heartbreaking in their bigotry and closed-mindedness.  Sooooo many comments I saw online basically boiled down to the theory that GirlfriendGate was all a cover up to hide the fact that the football player is gay.

While the idea of having to go through that elaborate scheme to hide your sexual orientation is unfortunate in itself, what really broke my heart was to see how many sports FANS - not necessarily athletes, but FANS of these athletes - came across as closed-minded and completely intolerant of the idea.  I will admit that one of my first thoughts upon hearing of this GirlfriendGate was this question: Could Manti Te'o become the first out professional football player?

So, yes, the thought did cross my mind because (1) when there's a lie about a non-existent girlfriend, things just look a little suspicious, and (2) this Heisman Trophy runner-up will no doubt be drafted into professional football and likely early in the first round, too. However, the difference is that I shrugged it off and thought "that would be cool and a huge step towards acceptance in that elite sports world," whereas others whose opinions I encountered online instead spewed vitriol and put him down to no end.

I've written about "Coming Out as a Gay Athlete" on this blog before back in September and October.  In those posts, I focused on the acceptance a professional gay athlete would find in the locker room amongst teammates and fellow players, and what I found were mostly accepting and positive attitudes towards having a gay teammate.

What I never considered could be an issue was the reaction of sports fans to having a gay athlete on their favorite team.

I just don't understand why an athlete's sexual orientation would even matter to the fan who is rooting for that team. It's not like being homosexual would affect one's skills on the field or turf. As long as the player continues to play at his peak, then why does it even matter?

In the end, I think the answer to my Manti Te'o question is "no." Subsequent interviews with the college athlete seem to indicate he was duped and had no knowledge of the hoax played on him.  It's too bad that he had to go through that experience on national television, but what I find equally unfortunate is the discovery of these intolerant sports fans who have come out of the woodwork.

To end things on a slightly more positive note, let me also say that I'm really excited that my San Francisco 49ers are in the Super Bowl! You know that SF fans wouldn't be like that. Hey, gay athletes who have Manti's talent, we have room on our team for your skills! :)

Rooting for the Niners and hoping things get better rather than worse,

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