Gay Athletes in Professional Sports

Michael Sam answering questions at the NFL Combine

Michael Sam answering questions at the NFL Combine

By Justin Simms

During the past two weeks, multiple milestones have been reached in relation to gay players in professional sports.  Michael Sam and Jason Collins, two well known athletes,  came out to the public as gay. Sam  is best known as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, former captain, defensive end for the University of Missouri, and a NFL hopeful. Jason Collins is an NBA player.   Collins came out at the end of the 2012-2013 NBA season; Sam this past fall.  Collins has been signed to the Brooklyn Nets to a 10-day contact, making him the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major American sports.

Sam’s act of coming out and Collins signing with the Nets have been the topic of discussion for many, and it has sparked a national debate on whether or not gay athletes would be treated well in American professional sports.

The reaction to both Sam and Collins has been overwhelmingly positive, as both players were bombarded with messages of congratulations and support.  In spite of this positivity, there are still questions concerning the comfort level of professional players with potential  gay teammates.

B.B. Abbott, a professional sports agent who represents over 65 professional players, most notably Brian McCann, the New York Yankees starting catcher, said via email, “I think it is important to remember that baseball is America’s sport and that America has and will always be the world’s landing ground for free market, free choices, free people and free liberties.”

He goes on to say, “It would be extremely short-sighted and contrary to what we stand for as Americans to not receive any person that embraces and plays our national sport pastime… it is time to turn the page on the things that supposedly make us “different” and to instead concentrate and focus on the things that make us Americans and the world’s melting pot.”

Many players have stressed that as long as a player can contribute to the team, they have no issue with regards to a teammate’s sexuality.

Abbott confirmed this in our interview when he said, “I think there are enough forward thinking people in MLB that any openly gay man playing the game would be received in a manner that others would be – as a teammate.  No more and no less.”

People associated with the sport of basketball have conveyed Abbott’s message.  Collins’s teammate Paul Pierce said in an interview with USA Today, “He is a guy that is going to be able to open up the door for athletes around the world…It doesn’t matter your race, gender or sexuality because it’s about being part of a team and caring for one another.”

Pierce’s quotes show that his teammates have no problem with Collins on their team and that he helps them win games and contribute to the overall chemistry of the team.

While many people support gay athletes, there are some people who aren’t comfortable with a gay player in the locker room for their own personal reasons.

Jonathan Vilma was quoted by the Huffington Post as saying, “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?”  Vilma’s ignorant comments caused a stir in the sport over gay players because it was the first time that a player had not said positive things about Sam and Collins. The general consensus is that a gay player would, in fact, be accepted in the NFL, even if they have to ignore some critics.

After a national debate was sparked over gay athletes, people related to sports have expressed that they would not have a problem with a gay teammate, and would only be concerned with the player’s performance on the field.  This is a milestone in sports that will forever change the landscape of America.

If you want more information about this topic, and the reactions of various athletes to Michael Sam and Jason Collins, please see the link below:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/sports/michael-sam-college-football-star-says-he-is-gay-ahead-of-nfl-draft.html?_r=0

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