Sports equality: Gay athletes in sports


It seems as though we are living in the “Age of Equality.” Gay marriage is being passed in many new states and countries, and more and more celebrities are embracing a “don’t hide who you truly are” attitude.

It’s cool now to be out of the closet and most of the world, in this progressive Age of Equality, is accepting of those who choose to announce to the world their sexual orientation.Yet while Hollywood has embraced ‘coming out,’ one sector of pop culture seems to be still hidden deep in the closet and less accepting of gays — the world of sports.

Seen as a testament to one’s manhood that dates back to the testosterone-heavy first-ever Olympic Games, sports are often a sign of heterosexuality. It’s a common misunderstanding that a boy involved in sports can’t be gay, which is why many parents suspecting of the sexual orientation of their sons feel that the “cure” is sports like football.

With the recent announcement of Micheal Sam, a young NFL prospect hailing from the University of Missouri who came out as gay, the sporting world has been in shock. Not often does a football player shed his macho image and come forward about his sexual orientation. He stated, “I am an openly proud gay man,” in a New York Times piece, but his teammates have known since August. If Sam is drafted and earns a spot on a team roster, he will be the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Still, eight NFL staff and coaches that were polled by Sports Illustrated believe that Sam will drop in the draft due to his announcement. Backlash isn’t uncommon for gay athletes. Tweets often contained strong language. Two examples: “So, message to Michael Sam and those like him: Nobody wants to hear about a man who likes to suck cock. Get back in the fucking closet” (@icanhasbailout) and “Michael Sam first openly gay athlete in the NFL??? that’s freaking disgusting!!!!!! should be kicked out if the NFL and the USA” (greyclark24).

Sam’s announcement is coming off the heels of British diver Tom Daley’s coming out, which he did via a YouTube video a few months ago. The Olympian was shown massive support, which could be due to the fact that diving is seen as a “gay” sport versus the masculinity of football. Another sport that is often labelled as “gay” is men’s figure skating. Still, American men’s figure skaters are encouraged to not announce their sexual orientation for the purpose of appealing to the American public and judges.

This fear of being gay in sports is something that should not exist in the coming years. Sexual orientation does not change the athleticism of great athletes, nor does it diminish their accomplishments. For this year’s Olympics in Sochi, where being a gay athlete is abhorred, the world’s athletes responded with the utmost support for LGBTQ rights. Germany walked in the opening ceremony wearing rainbow snowsuits, Greece’s athletes had rainbow fingertips on their gloves, and Blake Skejellerup, an openly gay New Zealand speed skater, wore a rainbow pin.

With the bravery of both Michael Sam and Tom Daley, hopefully more athletes will feel safe coming out of the closet and the Sochi Olympics will open the eyes of the world, especially Russia, that discrimination of gay athletes is not something to be tolerated in our ever evolving world.

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