Close your eyes, and imagine with me for a minute. You are watching the Super Bowl; there are seven seconds on the clock, 4th down and inches to the goal line and your team is down by four.
As you stand in front of the television with your palms sweating, your heart pounding, and the ache of hope and fear mingling in your stomach, the star running back for your favorite team, who has already contributed so much to this game and this season, whose jersey you are wearing, lines up in the backfield. The quarterback takes the snap and slams the ball in to the backs chest; this is it, the final play of the biggest game in professional football. The back charges through the line, lowers his head… and breaks through the defenders, TOUCHDOWN!
All over the country, living rooms, bars, and restaurants, erupt with the sound of the faithful fans of the team whose Super Bowl MVP running back just won them the Lombardi Trophy. It’s an amazing feeling isn’t it?
Now imagine that, in the days following that MVP performance, that same running back is seen at the events celebrating his Super Bowl win with another man, who is later identified as his partner. No nationally televised press conference, no coming out, just not hiding who he is. What is your reaction? Do you immediately denounce the player and throw away or burn his jersey?
Well, not if you are living with the rest of us here in the 21st century.
Regardless of what your personal views are, whether guided by religious morality, or innate morality, another person’s sexual orientation should be as personal as your own. Homosexuals are not “sexually deviant”; they are just people who are attracted sexually to people of their own gender. It is as simple as that.
Why should a person’s sexual orientation, which affects no one but themselves, even be discussed?
How is what other people do in the privacy of their bedrooms, or which gender they choose to do it with, anymore someone else’s business than what you do, or who you choose to do it with?
The short answer is: it’s not. It should make as much difference in how people are treated and perceived as gender, ethnicity, and religious preference, which is to say, none at all.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in professional sports. Just this February, the 49ers own Chris Culliver made some extremely intolerant remarks when asked if there were any gay players on the team. He later apologized; however, the stigma in professional sports remains unchanged.
The sad truth is that the anti-homosexual atmosphere that is fostered in the locker rooms of professional sports teams forces players to stay in the closet or face public ridicule, and incredibly, the possibility that they no longer be allowed to play the sport that they love.
Can you imagine having to hide something that is such a big part of your life? Having to lie about it every day so that people don’t try to hurt you or your loved ones, or try to take your livelihood away from you?
I have seen the kind of damage that can cause to a person’s psyche. As a soldier in the US Army, I served during, “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, and the repeal thereof. I watched good soldiers destroy themselves by lying about who they were so that they could have the honor of serving their country.
There is as bad, if not worse, of an anti-homosexual stigma in the military as there is in professional sports. There were protests, letters to Congress, and even the President, stating that the repeal of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy would cause the destruction of our armed forces. When DADT was repealed, however, few things changed.
No massive drop in the morale of troops, no sexual deviance, nothing.
But to see the faces of the soldiers it affected and watch as that weight visibly lifts is a powerful thing. Those soldiers were finally allowed to stop hiding their personal lives, without fear of repercussion or persecution.
The fact of the matter is that whether or not homosexuality is “allowed” in professional sports will not change the fact that there are homosexuals playing those sports, just as the DADT policy didn’t stop people from serving their country simply because it wasn’t “allowed”.
By allowing professional athletes to live their lives without the fear of persecution based simply on the gender of the person they love, we can prevent problems such as the violent outbursts, depression, and possible suicide that can be associated with carrying that kind of secret.
Professional athletes come from all races, creeds, national origins and religions. In the past each of those lines had to be crossed by men who were willing to be strong enough to take the abuse. Men like Jackie Robinson, who faced persecution, ridicule, and even physical danger to become the first black man to play in the all-white professional sport of Major League Baseball, paving the way for people like Hank Aaron and countless others.
Someday, there will be a professional athlete who is finally tired of living his or her life as a lie, and they will become the first openly gay professional football player, basketball player, baseball player, or in whatever sport they play.
Hopefully when that time comes, the American people will handle it better than they did the desegregation of professional sports.