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February 27, 2013

First Out & Active Gay Pro Athlete = Somebody That You [Probably Don't] Know

Or, as I could have titled this post, "Coming Out as a Gay Athlete, Part I-Can't-Even-Count." :)

I've mentioned in my posts in the past that there's been a lot - and I mean a LOT - of press about gay athletes and the professional sports world recently. As you may have guessed by now, I'm very interested in the topic, which seems to bring news every week.

This time, though, I unearthed some news in my Internet wanderings, but it's not really NEW news.

Have you heard of Glenn Burke?

Well, if you haven't, then now you have. He's the first (and only?) known professional athlete who was out to his team. And, if the story's got it straight, he was out to the Bay Area gay community, too.  Basically, it sounds like Glenn was out to almost everyone in his life/community - just not publicly in media outlets. And this was in 1977.

Here are a couple of articles on a recent Glenn Burke documentary, titled "Out: The Glenn Burke Story," which aired in the Bay Area in 2010:

Sports Illustrated
LA Observed

According to the Sports Illustrated article, his teammates were pretty cool with him - indeed, it sounds like, despite some discomfort, there was enough respect and acceptance to go around to include a gay ballplayer.  The reaction of the team (i.e., management), however, left much to be desired.  Rumor has it that the Dodgers offered Glenn Burke $75,000 to marry, to which he replied "I guess you mean to a woman."

I don't know about you, but I would hope things were better for athletes now than they were in the 1970s. However, as the article points out, there still aren't any active gay athletes, and it's like the professional sports world will tolerate any number of "taboos" (their word, not mine) - from dog fighting to domestic violence - but there's still a shroud of negativity surrounding homosexuality.

I haven't watched the documentary, but I was completely fascinated by this discovery of Glenn Burke and his openly gay lifestyle. And now you know about him, too.

Keep him in mind next time you hear about gay athletes - or the lack thereof - or the sports world's intolerance of homosexuality.

Hoping more barriers are broken,

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