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Monday, June 17, 2013

 Hi, folks, I'm still here. Took the weekend to think about my options, and I'm still thinking, and in the meantime, there's a lot going on. For starters, my old pal Dani Leone has joined this blog. You will read her at least once a week, writing about sports. Here's her first post:

By Dani Leone

Go to the NFL Players Association's Web page. You can get a T-shirt with a rainbow-football-player drawing on it, a rainbow number on the back, and the name of one of nine NFL players who, in a sense, walk with you. 

Nike's getting in on it too, with its #BeTrue shoe and clothing collection.

Basketball star Jason Collins walked with Joe Kennedy at Boston Pride. Brendan Ayenbadejo walked in LA, and will walk here. The NBA, the WNBA, MLS, and pro boxing all now have well-documented outness in them. Between last pride and this one, a lot has happened gaywise in the wide and wonky world of sports.

It was all going to happen, of course, but I love that it was accelerated by democratic Maryland legislator Emmett Burns, Baptist pastor and PhD, who last September objected to Ayenbadejo's public support of Maryland's marriage equality referendum. Burns's idiotic and sinister letter to Baltimore Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti requesting he silence his linebacker didn't have its desired effect. That's an understatement.

Not only did Bisciotti say (in so many words) no, but a lot of other people chimed in, most famously now-Oakland Raider/then-Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe, whose hilarious open letter to Burns went viral.

Separately, Kluwe and Ayenbadejo, two straight pro football players, had been outspoken proponents of same-sex marriage for years. Now, suddenly, they were in the spotlight. A backup linebacker and a punter.

About a week after all that went down, then-Toronto Blue Jays/now-Tampa Bay Devil Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar wore a homophobic slur on his eyeblack and was suspended for three games by Major League Baseball.

In October, professional featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz came out, then won his next fight. And his next.

Between last Pride and this one, propelled perhaps by all of the above, people really started talking a lot more, and in earnest, about gay pro athletes coming out of the closet. Not just women, not just tennis, not just boxing, but pro football and baseball players. Gay men. Active players in major macho team sports.

Chris Culliver said his stupid thing, embarrassing the crap out of the 49ers and all of San Francisco days before the Super Bowl . . . which Brendan Ayenbadejo's team won.

This Spring, shortly after Ayenbadejo and others speculated all over the Internet as to who would have the first out gay player, MLB or the NFL, the NBA beat them both to it: Jason Collins, on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

No, he's not the first pro athlete to come out before retiring. But I'm sure Martina agrees, and Orlando, and Glenn Burke would if he could, that Collins is a very important one. For better or worse, we worship our sports heroes. The more mainstream and male-dominated the sport, the more widely worshipped they are, generally speaking. And the more widely worshipped they are, the greater the impact they will have on mainstream society's eventual acceptance of LGBT people.

Between this Pride and next one, there are going to be a lot more openly gay gays in the game. Everyone is talking about it. Already, for every Chris Culliver there are at least ten pro football players happy to put their numbers and names on the back of a gay pride T-shirt.

One cool thought: that, as the stupid stigma against gayness leaves the wide world of sports, so too will the reactionarily stupid stigma against jockhood leave a certain segment of the gay world.

I just revisited Kluwe's open letter -- as I imagine I will every so often, since it contains the phrase “narcissistic fromunda stain” (neverminding the more famous “lustful cockmonster”) . . . And I didn't have to look far into the Huffpost comments section afterward to find what I didn't know I was looking for: a self-described “stereotypical queer kid” who theretofore had hated sports and thought the worst of professional athletes. 

Until, of course, reading Kluwe's letter.

“I probably still won't turn on Monday Football,” he admits, before declaring himself a “new and ardent admirer” of Chris Kluwe, and signing off a “former jock-hating geek.”



Boom! In one big, long, drawn-out Nike swoop, we've got gays in the game -- and the game in gays.
I'm happy about this.

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