While the stigma of an openly gay athlete has long since passed in women's sports—thanks to the courage of women like Martina Navratilova a generation ago, Sheryl Swoopes nearly a decade ago and Megan Rapinoe today—we have yet to witness an active player in men's professional team sports announce that he is gay.
Freeman went on to explain that his sources told him the player who is thinking about coming out is reluctant to do so because of how the public will treat him (i.e. how fans will react), not because of how he will be treated in an NFL locker room.
Please, if you think the time is right to come out, do it. There are more people than ever willing to accept, defend and celebrate you. It's time for sports to catch up to the rest of society.
I'm not naive enough to think there isn't homophobia in the NFL—with fans and within the locker room—but there is also tolerance.
Last year, when the state of Maryland voted to allow same-sex marriage, Baltimore Ravens players Matt Birk and Brendon Ayanbadejo were on very different sides of the decision. The NFL media has made Ayanbadejo into something of a cult hero for his outspoken stance.
At the start of the NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers were the first team to produce an "It Gets Better" public service announcement focused on LGBT youth. Before the Super Bowl, 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver found himself embroiled in controversy after his anti-gay comments made international news.
Culliver's remarks were widely rebuked. Feeling the immediate pressure, he apologized for his statements and—with the 49ers spin machine in full gear—promised to undergo sensitivity counseling after the season.
Culliver has made good on his promise, spending a day in March with The Trevor Project, a Los Angeles organization that helps LGBT and questioning youth, specifically those at-risk.
It should be noted that in February, however, the 49ers had another public relations gaffe when the "It Gets Better" campaign pulled the team's ad after two players in the video denied Kids Trent Williams Jersey their involvement, stating they had no idea what the commercial was for.
Clearly, this is a work in progress, but the time has never been better for a player to take this leap.
Is there any rational mind that believes as long as no player comes out to www.redskinsofficialonline.com/WOMENS-TRENT-WILLIAMS-JERSEY.html proclaim his homosexuality, the possibility of a gay player ceases to exist?
A few weeks ago, I heard a caller on local sports talk radio—I know, not always the bastion of level-headedness—tell the host he hopes no player comes out because he, the caller, didn't want to have to deal with it.
He didn't want to have to explain what that meant to his family, or deal with the issue of that gay player, perhaps, being on a team for which he likes to cheer. He was, pardon the expression, undressed by the host, pilloried for his antiquated viewpoints and lampooned for even daring to make someone else's struggle with their hidden sexuality about them.
We live in a society where nature versus nurture is somehow still up for debate.
We live in a society where people still believe that homosexuals have a choice on how they feel; that they are sinners if they act on sexual urges toward an individual of the same sex.
We live in a society where, despite the amazing strides taken in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender Americans, many people still find those people repulsive, immoral and unworthy of the basic civil rights as those who cohabitate with a member of the opposite sex.
Still, through all the struggles and all the prejudices and all the reasons not to live an open and honest lifestyle, more and more LGBT Americans continue to make the courageous choice to come out of the shadows.
Every one of you helps the next.
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