Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Sporting Closet

A prominent English cricket player, Steven Davies, recently announced that he is gay. Davies is 24 and is likely to be a prominent player at both the county and the national level for years to come, so this is a really important step. He follows Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas, who came out in the last couple of years.

The question remains: when will an active male in a major team sport in the United States follow suit? Note that the question is not "when will there be a gay male athlete in a major team sport in the United States?" There is absolutely no doubt that there has been and that there are closeted gay men in the Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and MLS. But that step is a huge one, and while we can hope that today's athletes would handle it, it would only take one or two not to for the situation to become virtually untenable in a machismo-laden locker room.

I asked my students about this in my Global Sports History class this semester and they made the sage point that whoever did it would have to be a very, very good player. The 53rd guy on and NFL roster or the mop-up guy in the bullpen almost certainly could not do it. I'd like to think we are ready for it. But I fear that we are not. Still, Steven Davies and Gareth Thomas provide hope.

The best hope is that someday gay athletes will not be a big deal. But we are not there yet.


Ken said...

What's particularly impressive about Davies is that he is by no means an automatic choice at international level. He's the back-up wicketkeeper in both Test and one-day cricket; there's no certainty about his ability to step up and consistently perform at the highest level. I'm delighted not just that he's been brave enough to come out but that there's actually not been a huge amount of attention on this.

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dcat said...

Ken --
Great points. He's a very good player, but not so good that there was not definite potential to damage his career, and yet this has gone by without really much of a peep at all, wich is a great sign of progress.