It wasn’t too long ago that African-Americans were segregated from the rest of the sport-culture, playing in their own leagues and confronting hate and violence from every block that they encountered. Hatred for the sheer color of one man’s skin grew in the eyes of white America resulting in death and brutality. The Negro Leagues were born out of terror, ignorance and a decay of compassionate souls. The same parallels can be drawn to what is occurring against homosexuals in today’s sports landscape.
I am not comparing an era of racism to today’s prejudice towards homosexuality, but I am drawing a connection between the two built on discrimination and ignorance. 51 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech, preaching that one day equality would be felt among the nation. And 66 years since Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier one would think that the world has evolved since then. Yet, it hasn’t.
The question that I am posing is why don’t current athletes playing in team sports come out rather than waiting until they are retired from the game? Why are we seeing more and more retired athletes come out rather than current ones?
Is it because we live in a society where derogatory terms are thrown around so easily without any hesitation or remorse? Where did the negative connotation that aligns itself with homosexuality come from?
As children, we learn from our elders. Whether it’s from our parents, teachers, or coaches we are handed down knowledge and wisdom. A child’s mind is like a sponge and absorbs all the information that is given. So when we are educated about various elements at a young and impressionable age it kind of just sticks there.
Therefore, when athletes make derogatory comments against gays and lesbians, what percentage of the population takes in those words and has it stick to their brain? I am guessing the kids.
If the hatred words stop at the top then they will not trickle down and create another vicious cycle. But this is not an easy task given the track record of comments made by athletes.
Former NBA player Tim Hardaway had an awful take on the subject once upon a time, and former NFL running back Garrison Hearst offered equally appalling commentary on the subject. Even last year at the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said:
“I don’t do the guys. I don’t do that. We don’t have any gays on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”
It’s our job as members of this community to educate our children so that they will be able to navigate through those words and come out on the other end with an open and understanding mind.
Even though we are making progress as a society in accepting gays and lesbians, there are still a vast majority of Americans who still turn a blind eye and look down upon them. Homosexuality and sports are still very much taboo in our culture. Are we that scared of the unknown and the differences that shape this country that we turn a blind eye and spit on thy fellow man and woman?
Congratulations to the bravery that it took Jason Collins for coming out, yet he did it during the twilight of his 13-year NBA career. Why did he choose to come out when he was trying to hold on to his NBA career rather than coming out during his playing days?
Until an established superstar comes out like a Tom Brady, LeBron James or a Derek Jeter steps out, the cleats of closeted athletes will never come out onto the playing field. Someone is going to have to break through the mold and the so-called stereotype to conduct a change in the minds of the masses. Once people see that a budding superstar is gay and can play the game at a high level then will we see a transformation in the mindset of the public. We will not refer to them as a gay athlete but just an athlete.
Adam Kreamer is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @adam_Kreamer.