We’re a basketball blog. We talk about the NBA and, specifically, the Memphis Grizzlies. That’s the whole point of what we do here. We don’t talk about baseball or football or food or politics or religion or zombies (although I really should do a piece on zombies). We discuss the beautiful, poetry-in-motion, played by the greatest athletes in the world, game of basketball. Yet…sometimes we need to look at bigger issues that affect the game. For me, this is one of those times.
Last week, Kevin Arnovitz posted an article on October 11 which you may or may not know, is National Coming Out Day. I urge all of you to go read it if you haven’t already. In this eloquent and thoughtful piece, Arnovitz looks at all of the issues surrounding what will face the first openly gay NBA player once he makes the decision to reveal himself. It won’t be easy — that much should be obvious by the fact that no one has stepped forward so far.
In the testosterone-laden world of men’s professional sports, it is a very pressing question about when an athlete will “come out” while still playing. There have been enough who have done so after their playing careers are over to make it clear that they are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think that it is a great leap to equate the first openly gay male athlete in one of the major sports with the likes of Jackie Robinson crossing the color barrier in baseball. If anything, I think it might be an even more daunting wall. He will be the object of derision and jeers in every arena/stadium he goes to. Obviously, that is not right, but that’s just how it will be, just as it was for Robinson. He will face insults from fans, opponents, and probably some of his own teammates. But….once that first brave soul steps out into, more will follow. Probably not immediately. It might take a few years before someone else is willing to take a similar stand.
That is the next big barrier for sports though. Nobody should ever have to hide his or her true self, to live in fear of the truth coming out. Instead, they should be able to live freely, just as everyone else is able to do. It’s time for the stigma to be removed, for the labels to fall into disuse, so that people can just live, rather than live in hiding.