Friday, February 14, 2014

Regarding gay football players

Football players who object to the hypothetical scenario of having a gay teammate should know this: It's probably not hypothetical. 

Lots of gay guys play football (and sports in general) and always have. This is probably news to players who don't recall any unwanted homosexual aggression getting in the way of the typical semi-nude locker-room hijinks, but apparently it goes undetected all the time. Why? Because, not being mindless sexual predators, gay athletes are fully capable of being focused, intelligent and respectful human beings. Indeed, they could teach a thing or two to their hostile (and ultimately insecure) heterosexual critics.

I played football for just one year in 12th grade — and I had a gay teammate. He came out to me five years later, after he read a pro-gay column I'd written in our college newspaper. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had a clue. 

How would I have reacted to the news had I known at 17? It's hard to say for sure. I'd had several gay friends by that point (some of whom had expressed affection for me), so I understood to a degree what they dealt with. But I was also a teenager in the Deep South, where the conscious and subconscious often conspire to cast others out. No teammate of mine knew definitively where I stood on the issue, and I'm not sure I did either. Even then, though, I assumed someone on the team had to be gay simply for statistical reasons. That didn't stop me, or anyone else, from dressing and undressing.

Michael Sam isn't the first gay football player, nor is he the hundredth. Had he not said anything, he would still be a gay man in a locker room, and no homophobe would be the wiser/dumber, just like it's mostly been since football's inception. If Sam makes it to the NFL — and by all accounts, he should — he will be the league's first active, openly gay player. It's a first only in the sense that it's now on the haters to learn how to deal with it. 

No wonder they're afraid.

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