By Lindsey Bosse /// Staff Writer
Currently on the cover of Curve, the self-acclaimed “Best-Selling Lesbian Magazine,” women’s professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe stands in all denim in front of a swimming pool, holding a soccer ball. She’s smiling, and lesbian readers swoon over her audacity for being out and her cute pixie haircut.
Meanwhile, online news sources are all aflutter over openly gay male athletes, or the lack thereof. In an interview with NPR, sportswriter Stefan Fatsis noted that one openly gay male athlete from the United States currently plays soccer for an English team.
He came out and retired in the same breath, and the response of the public was overwhelmingly full of support, albeit in England.
Responding to the support, Fatsis said, “I think that’s significant. One way top leagues can ease the road for an openly gay male athlete—and I say male because there are out lesbian athletes in team sports—one way they can ease the road would be if the message came from the top, from teams and leagues and league commissioners.”
Meanwhile, in the States, former MLB pitcher Mark Knudson made a statement that gay baseball players should stay in the closet.
NPR also released the news that during recent scouting trips, an NFL team was interrogating college students about their relationships during interviews; the NFL followed up saying that such behavior was against league policy.
A majority of professional male athletes don’t come out until they are retired. This past year, boxer Orlando Cruz tweeted, “As a boxer, I am proud to tell the world that I have always been and always will be a proud Puerto Rican gay man.” But he is a very rare case. In 1975, David Kopay was the first NFL player to come out of the closet, and he did so after three years of retirement. Since then, most players wait until after their careers end to come out.
Scott Fujita, linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, was quoted last week by the Huffington Post saying, “It’s important for closet gay athletes everywhere, not just at the professional level, but more importantly athletes at the younger level in high school and college, to understand they do have support around them and that they can come out and feel comfortable. And honestly, that is going to help save lives.”
Other athletes have also made statements supporting gay marriage and coming out, noting its importance on a national level, not just within sports leagues.
Is it a machismo thing? A public shower thing? A question of religious integrity? Why is it that gay men can’t play sports as gay men? What about their gayness interferes with their ability to play sports? Why is it that lesbian players are celebrated?
Sports, especially male sports, are culturally representative of strength, power and, to an extent, brotherhood.
The perceived ideology of homosexuals challenges this. But let me pose this question: what is it about forcing peer athletes to lie about who they are in order to feel comfortable that makes you strong, powerful and trustworthy?