Gays In Pro Sport Debate Misses Mark
In The Wake Of Rick Welt’s Announcement And Big Time Fines To Kobe Bryant and Joachim Noah, Locker Rooms and Religion Are Not Being Discussed
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine .com
May 24, 2011 — Last weekend, the world was told that Phoenix Suns CEO Rick Welts was gay.
In almost every industry in America, the idea that someone who is homosexual needs to live a shadow life is ridiculous.
But in men’s professional sports? That is another matter altogether.
Welts told the New York Times, who carried the original article, that his public declaration was indeed to bring the matter into the public discourse.
The New York Times’ article read, in part, “Mr. Welts explained that he wants to pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men’s team sports. He wants to be a mentor to gay people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office. Most of all, he wants to feel whole, authentic.”
“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” Welts told the New York Times. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”
Well, he certainly got that ball rolling, although he may not have liked the banter that made it all too clear that a vast majority of the public — and especially those that follow and play professional sports — have serious issues with homosexual men.
Some might even qualify as homophobic.
Most of the talking heads said the right things, but the message and chat boards were filled with a boatload of asinine and homophobic comments. Granted, many were supportive of him and any other guy trying to make it in professional sports who happens to be gay.
The discussion was simply not adequately mined because Kobe Bryant had just been fined $100,000 by NBA Commissioner David Stern and the league had just finished filming commercials discouraging the use of the word “gay” in a derogatory manner. No player, broadcaster or executive would engage in a real discussion since doing so and using the wrong words might cost them their career.
But the truth is that homosexual men in professional sports will always have some people not like them for their sexual orientation. The multitude of reasonings behind such a position might be a thousand fold, but two of the biggest issues not discussed in the aftermath of Welts’ announcement are the showering and religion issues.
Many people think engaging in homosexual sex and relationships is banned by God. That is an argument many hold, right or wrong. It is especially entrenched with the wildly indoctrinated.
How can anyone reach someone who doesn’t like homosexuals because their pastor and community tell them not to? That hurdle must be almost impossible to overcome. Granted, religious tenants are currently being re-evaluated in many corners, but the ‘God says’ argument is always a tough nut to crack.
The other big issue that hasn’t been discussed — and the most sensitive — is that professional sports is one of the only professions where you shower with other men as a part of your job. Not just once in a while, but with the same group of 20 or so all year long.
A homophobic, religious guy in a cubicle is less likely to make working with a homosexual co-worker tough than when that dynamic is manifested in a locker room.
If players would really be honest about why homosexuality is a big issue for them, the truth would invariably be that is has absolutely nothing to do with what might happen on or off the court, but in the locker room shower.
Sure, no one is talking about a prison scene here, but that some men would feel really, really uncomfortable getting naked in front of a gay man.
Would that be close minded, childish, or ignorant?
But it is the 800-pound gorilla in the discussion. In order to “get along” in the locker room, gay professional male athletes feel like they simply cannot be openly homosexual. Then after they are retired, they already have a “shadow” life and “shadow friends” and coming out becomes a big deal.
It seems that same culture has also permeated the executive ranks of professional sports, at least according to Rick Welts.
But while Welts laments that he was forced to lead a shadow life, no one forced him. He could have said, ‘I don’t care if I have to work at Wal Mart, I am going to tell everyone,’ in 1979.
Instead, he rose to the No.3 guy at the NBA league office for nearly 20 years and then has run the Phoenix Suns since then.
Besides, it seems like when he was “in the closet” it was never was a state secret. People knew he was homosexual.
Near the end of the piece in the New York Times, it read, “Mr. Welts’s final stop before his public announcement was to a high-end restaurant perched on the side of Camelback Mountain, just outside Phoenix, for lunch with Steve Nash. A few weeks earlier, a mutual friend had given Mr. Nash the heads-up about what Mr. Welts wanted to discuss. Mr. Nash was surprised; he thought that everyone already knew that Mr. Welts was gay.”
If everyone already knew, why the big announcement?
Maybe Welts is trying to win back the love of the man that left him two years ago because he was part of a “shadow life.” Or, maybe, Stern is considering supporting Welts as his successor as commissioner — Stern is 68, Welts is 58.
Or, maybe, Welts was just trying to break some new ground while letting those who might have been in his position in 1979 to take a stand and don’t fall into the trap of a “shadow life.”
Either way, it is truly a shame that the discussion has died before approaching the issues that need to be discussed in order for there to be any chance at a resolution.
Maybe as a gesture of good-will homosexuals can offer the word ‘gay’ back to the English speaking population so that it can once again mean, “having or showing a merry or happy mood” and heterosexuals can offer to return the word ‘fag’ to, “a boring or meaningless task.”
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