Coming Out in the World of Sports

I am revisiting a topic I discussed earlier on in the year on my blog because I feel I didn’t communicate my thoughts effectively.  Also, it pertains to an issue that continues to surface; that is, news coverage of athletes announcing that they are gay.

I don’t mean to sound insensitive, because I’m not, but these announcements aren’t news.  It may be news to the athletes family, their friends, their coaches and their teammates, but it is not news to the world.

Most recently, Derrick Gordon, a guard for the UMass men’s basketball team, announced that he is gay.  Of course, an interview shortly followed his announcement on April 8th in which Kate Fagan asked Gordon about his coming out.

The questioning started out relevant to sports.  First, Fagan asked Gordon what it was like to finally tell his teammates he was gay.  She quickly moved on to ask him about his parents’ reactions and how his siblings took the news.  Fagan later brought her questions back to basketball, Jason Collins and concerns of playing in college after coming out.

Gordon admitted in the interview that Jason Collin’s coming out encouraged him to do the same.  For this reason, the media coverage of these (very personal) announcements is a good thing.

I cannot speak from experience, but can imagine it is quite a difficult thing to build up the courage to do.  I think it’s a great thing and I don’t mean to criticize the athletes, because they didn’t ask for this attention.  But ESPN discovers someone who plays sports is gay and they decide to make it a news story and blow it completely out of proportion.

Michael Sam, a highly touted football player from Missouri captivated sports news for the same reason in February of this year.  The talented defensive end admitted to have been gay for some time, but felt that he should make his sexual orientation public before entering the NFL draft.


The ensuing reaction from the media was all positive (as it should be) but I wonder if all the attention to stories like this are counterintuitive to the progression of homosexuals in general.  NBA basketball player Jason Collins made his coming out public last April.  Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major American sport and ESPN had a field day with the news.

jason collins

I think it’s great that the media recognizes milestones such as these, but the amount of attention given to these announcements may be a little over-the-top.  It makes coming out seem like much more of a big deal than it should be.  I don’t mean to be inconsiderate of the people who have built up the courage to make their homosexuality public, but I do believe the media has successfully blown it out of proportion.

It makes me believe that the media attention is a large part of the reason athletes are reluctant to come out.  They may not want to be the next athlete to be talked about for a solid week on broadcast television solely because of their newly announced sexual orientation.

I’m sure the announcements of Collins, Sam and Gordon have given many athletes courage to be comfortable with who they are, but I don’t think they’ll want the media attention that these athletes have received.  I wish the best to all three of these athletes in their respective careers.  I just hope they make headlines in sports for something other than their sexual orientation going forward.