Gareth Thomas Welsh, a professional rugby player, and Justin Fashanu, a fútbol player, are the only two male athletes to come out as gay while playing their respective sport.
Fashanu, who came out in 1990, committed suicide in 1998 after accusations of him sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy. Thomas, on the other hand, came out in 2009 and received ridicule from fans. After the league found out, they fined the opposing team and never allowed the taunting fans to return to a game again. Thomas’ teammates accepted him for who he was and treated him like he was just one of the guys.
If Thomas can be accepted for being gay in arguably the manliest sport in the world (rugby), than why can’t an American born athlete come out while still playing their sport?
We came close when American soccer player Robbie Rogers came out publicly in Feb. 2013, but retired weeks later at the age of 25. It seems that there is this belief in America against gays on sports teams, especially in the locker rooms. This is homophobia, which comes from one man checking out another man, so they turn into bullies.
Homophobia is shown with the ignorant comments that San Francisco 49er’s cornerback Chris Culliver made toward gay football players before the Super Bowl.
“I don’t do the gay guys. I don’t do that,” Culliver told Artie Lange on his radio show. “We don’t have any gay guys on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Yeah, come out 10 years later after that.”
This is what is holding sports back when it comes to having an openly gay American male athlete during their careers. Players don’t come out because they are afraid of the repercussions that may face them from other players and fans.
Athletes and fans need to be more open and understanding to gay athletes. Just because they are gay does not diminish their talent level and won’t change who they are as a person.
Just think of all of the endorsements the first gay American athlete would receive if he were accepted. He would be able to change the sports world for the better and become a pioneer in the sport, just like Jackie Robinson did for African American athletes.
Though I am campaigning for an openly American gay male athlete, I do not want to force any gay player to come out if they do not want to. I just want athletes and fans to be more understanding, because the homophobia they show today is holding us back as a society and that’s unnecessary roughness.