I would be lying if I said I had much of an interest in sports when I was a teen, but I find that to be a pretty big shame. As a youth and preteen I loved to play soccer. Not only did I love it, but I was rather good at it.
I think it’s in my blood because I am a highly competitive person. Being a competitive person I think it is healthy to have a sport to retreat to in order to release the energy I have to accomplish things. Not only that, but as a lonely and depressed teen I think sports would have been a great avenue for me to go down in order to find the types of friendships and supports that sports offer many of their members.
You may be thinking to yourself, “why does it matter if you admitted to not being all that interested in sports in your teen years Bobby?” Honestly, I think I lost interest in sports because of the attitude that surrounded me when I went to the first day of soccer practice my freshman year of high school. I was an outcast, which is strange for me because even as a depressed teen I was extremely social. I was depressed behind closed doors and smiles in public for the most part. The resistance to a flamboyant teen was what made me decide to leave the sport after day one.
Unfortunately, as a flamboyant gay male, the sports world isn’t always that welcoming. Never once in my teenage years did I feel that I was welcome in the masculine straight world of high school sports. The guys on our sports teams weren’t un-accepting of my sexuality overall, but they weren’t welcoming to me joining their world of sports either. The gays tended to be directed toward Crew, Track, Color Guard, Cheerleading or Dance.
The lack of acceptance isn’t limited toward flamboyant gay men though. It’s to the gay community in general. We learned this recently when Yunel Escobar from the Blue Jay’s baseball team wrote gay slurs on his face at a game.
While the sports team suspended him for three games and directed the income he would have received for those games to the You Can Play cause fighting to end discrimination and a lack of acceptance in sports today, it none-the-less happened. Sports are a culture of misogynistic and homophobic behaviors. Behaviors that I find ironic in a world where heterosexual men smack each others behinds to express their support for one another.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association supported the punishment given to Escobar because they support respect for all fans, they don’t have the same fast and appropriate response when they are asked to speak to The Last Closet. The Last Closet, according to their website, is “a grassroots movement and campaign to end the prevailing silence around homophobia in pro sports and to encourage professional athletes, commissioners, team owners and other members of the sports world to consent to in-depth interview about this subject”.
The Last Closet has reached out to executives in all professional sports leagues to discuss homophobia in sports and the importance of ending homophobia in sports particularly in hopes to help end suicide, depression and a lack of inclusiveness in the sports world for those who have to hide who they are. They reached out to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball who refused to open up this dialogue. I wish to call on the MLB to extend their support to an overall effort to stamp out homophobia in sports, not just when the MLB is under fire for an isolated public incident.
I agree fully with The Last Closet when they say that it’s important to have the heads of professional sports to take part in a project and conversation highlighting homophobia in sports and how to end it because, “as leaders of their respective sports leagues they are in the unique position to change the culture of their sport and make it more inclusive”.
Men in sports who are gay but not out could serve as role models for younger athletes showing them that there is nothing wrong with coming out and playing a sport. Professional sports accepting and treating gay athletes with respect and dignity will show heterosexual youth to be inclusive and accepting of gay youth who want to partake in their sports. In return sports teams will help gay youth struggling to find a place to belong to be apart of teams, which serve as a social unit for people as they grow.
I’ve decided to take part in the League Commissioners Campaign at The Last Closet. To take part all I have to do is write a letter, as directed on their website at www.thelastcloset.org/campaign, to the commissioners of the professional sports leagues. I will be telling them about why I think it’s important to take part in the Last Closet’s mission and how I think it will help struggling youth like some of those who inspired the It Get’s Better Project.
It’s important to have more players in professional sports and the entire professional sports world stand with players like Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo who publicly supported the legalization of gay marriage. His stance sets him as a positive role model in today’s world where we are fighting for equality, respect, love and acceptance for the LGBT community.