Gays in sports have been in the news a lot lately. Now I’m not here to debate people opinions on homosexuality but to talk about gay athletes in sports. A lot of the buzz lately is whether locker rooms are ready for openly gay athletes to be in the same locker room. The University of Connecticut hockey team recently released videos titled “you can play” saying as long as they can help the team win they are welcome on the team. My question is whether gays are ready to be in sports locker rooms.
Now I have never played sports. But I do have a lot of guy friends and understand the dynamics of a locker room. There is a lot of joking, razzing and fun jabs and there are at times some cliques and divisions.
Let’s start with the joking. There is a lot of talk about bullying and what not in the news. Locker rooms and just a bunch of guys and in general can quickly turn to what I consider to be good natured joking and name calling. Its not uncommon for guys to poke fun at their friends or team mates in areas that will affect them the most. Not to hurt their feelings or be mean but as a way of showing they care. There was a recent report of Tim Tebow getting razzed by his new teammates about Lolo Jones. Someone who seems might be a good match for Tebow is not actually seeing at all. If teammates feel comfortable with a new teammate like Tebow then I can only imagine how comfortable they will feel with a guy who’s been around for a few years that comes out of the closet. Are Homosexual players ready for that sort of kidding? I want to be clear that by no means do I think gays are overly sensitive I actually think the opposite. Then there is the inherent problem that no one will want to be the guy who jokes around with the openly gay player in fear of the media backlash. So then they are treating that player with kid gloves and that kind of singles them out more than anything. I doubt any gay player wants to change the dynamic in a locker room. Wade Davis recently came out as being gay. He retired 7 years ago and said he didn’t come out earlier because he wanted to be known as a football player not as gay.
Then there is the cliques in locker rooms. Now I know they are the same team. Striving for the same goal. Win the games, win the championship, be the best, but there are always groups that form. Whether it’s as simple as offense and defense or guys from the same college hanging out. It just happens. When you’re practicing with a group of guys you form bonds. Then with in those larger groups there are smaller ones. The single guys who go out to the clubs together (IE Plex and Peirce for the NYG or Richards and Carter for the flyers). The married guys who go home after practice and spend time talking about their kids. The bikers and the golfers. Not to say that gays will be forced into their own group because they are gay or that sexual orientation should be why you hang with one another but you generally hang with the persons you have the most in common with. The worst part of cliques is there is always a group that is kind of the outcast. In football it seems to be the kickers and punters. In track it’s the high jumpers and pole-vaulters. Would the homosexuals become the outcast of the locker rooms? I don’t think right off. I think people will go out of their way to include players who come out more so then they would normally but I think after a while that will fade. Every homosexual person I’ve talked to or have read an article on they all echo the same sentiment that they just want to be treated like everyone else, That their sexual preference doesn’t make them any different than anyone else. Teammates will respect other teammates regaurless of race, sexual orinetaion or political alignment. Just look at the way the bruins supported Tim Thomas when he decided to skip the white hosue visit because he wanted to make a political stand. His coaches and teammates came out and supported his choice because at the end of the day it was his choice and it didn’t affect the way the team played. Do I think every player in that locker room agrees with him? No not at all. I believe there were people who believe that it was rude to not go. You don’t get that opportunity often but they respect Thomas as a teammate and supported him. Support doesn’t equal agreement.
Now in a perfect world your skill and ability would be the key factor to making a team and being accepted. It shouldn’t be based on your sexual orientation which plays no factor into the game or your race or back ground. But if gays want to be open about then there is a lot that goes into it. Wade Davis also said that he thinks an openly gay fringe player may not make the team because of it. I think he might make the team because of it. It would be good PR for a team. I think it’s good that the issue is being talked about. There are always going to be the old timers who can’t look past that in someone. Whether you agree or disagree with Homosexuality its around and you can’t ignore it. For the first time ever the NFL added a gay diversity training to their rookie symposium this year. I hear a lot of Homosexuals saying they want to be treated like everyone else. If that’s the case then leave the issue alone and just play sports