The following quotes go to the heart of why gay athletes have trouble being honest with their teammates and why articles like this are necessary.
San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst: "Aww, hell no! I don't want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk. I don't want any faggots in this locker room."
The Chicago Cubs pitcher Julian Tavarez, after being booed by San Francisco fans, said: "Why should I care about the fans? They're a bunch of assholes and faggots here."
After NBA star center John Amaechi disclosed he was gay, NBA player Tim Hardaway said: "First of all I wouldn’t want him on my team. and second of all, if he was on my team I would really distance myself from him because I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room. Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that's upset and can't concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it's going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate."
Can you picture Hardaway as a helpless defenseless virgin while Amaechi had his way with him right there in the locker room and in front of his fellow team members too “worried” to come to his rescue? Can you imagine network television having to put an extra 30-second delay on a telecast just in case Amaechi decided in the middle of the game that Hardaway was so attractive that he might lose control and play grab-ass with him instead of making that crucial three pointer?
In the spirit of “you're damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” LeBron James expressed a problem with closeted gays on his team saying, "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy. So that's like the No. 1 thing as teammates — we all trust each other… It's a trust factor, honestly. A big trust factor."
Englishman John Amaechi didn’t even take up basketball until he was 17 years old. It would be an understatement to say he’d entered the sport a little late in life, so people scoffing at his desire to be an American basketball star would be considered reasonable. Of course if you’d ever met the six-foot-10, 270-pound athlete in person, it’d probably lessen the shock of his latter achievements.
Among his considerable list of accomplishments by the time he’d turned 30, he’d crossed the Atlantic several times to become not only a famous European basketball star but also a well-known American one. The twice First Team Academic All-American for Penn State went on to become an undrafted NBA starter for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995-96. He also played in France and Italy. Amaechi is the only British player to be inducted into the U.S. Basketball Hall of Fame after incredible seasons in Cleveland, Orlando, and Utah.
Among the four major American sports, John is only the sixth pro athlete to talk openly about being gay and the only one so far within the NBA. Averaging 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds a game, Amaechi has proven that being a homosexual team player should be about as controversial as being left or right-handed.
Nowadays John is a British TV personality, helps run and fund the Amaechi Basketball Center in Manchester, and is a best-selling author for ESPN Books with his autobiography Man in the Middle.
In a way LeBron had a valid point a few paragraphs back. If you’re a team you should be able to trust each other with anything. A good example of how this actually helps a squad comes in the form of…
After Sims left Bloomsburg University he became an unusual legend, as much for his athletic accomplishments as for the fact that unless you knew him personally you’d never believe he was gay. If any stereotype fit him it’d be a college jock. Conversation leaned toward the coming game, the opponents' strengths and weaknesses, which cheerleader might get lucky next, what professors he would like to sack in the parking lot, and where and when he wanted to turn pro. Sims was known for a lot of things, not the least of which was that he could bench press 225 pounds, not 10, not 20, but nearly 40 times. He was captain of their Division II football team playing defensive tackle, and at a hulking six feet tall and 260 pounds, he wasn’t exactly what you’d call your clichéd “faggot” by a long shot.
Brian began feeling his attraction to other men back in junior high, but with two Army colonels for parents, it went without saying that he suppressed it as much as possible. Once he entered college and was out on his own, he gradually not only faced his sexual preferences, but accepted them.
As Bloomsburg University began realizing that they could very likely clinch the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship, one of Sims’ ex-clandestine boyfriends decided on his revenge for being dumped — he convincingly informed quarterback Eric Miller that Bloomsburg’s team captain and all-conference defensive tackle was a homosexual. Miller kept the news to himself about his good friend, but whispers in the locker room became rumors in the halls as more and more students were told.
As Brian’s roommates will verify, it wasn’t exactly easy confirming that the handsome first-team jock was gay, especially with the steady stream of girls wandering in and out of his room at all hours of the day and night. After all, being gay isn’t whom you have sex with, but whom your hormones react to and whom you fall in love with. After all, many closeted husbands with children and famous athletes of all kinds hide behind relationships with women — most ending in disaster.
As a very successful and long season progressed, the team knew that the last thing they needed was for one of their most crucial players to get sidelined worrying about how they felt about him, so they confronted him, told him they knew, supported him, and made sure he was confident that they were behind him 100 percent. No one avoided him in the locker room or shower; in fact if anything it brought them solidly together as a team, supporting each other as a fighting unit with one true interest and love — football.
As the championship match drew nearer, it even became a point of team pride and humor. Overconfident opponents who’d heard the rumors came and then left the field of battle knowing that they’d have to face their home fans after suffering a galling defeat at the hands of a team with a queer for a starting player who somehow was also a star all-conference tackle and its captain!
As fate would have it and despite Sims chalking up three sacks in the final game, Delta State took the national championship, racking up a score of 63-34.
Brian Sims is now a successful lawyer connected with the Philadelphia Bar Association and works with the Pennsylvania Legislature in matters of discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Baseball’s Billy Bean of the Tigers, Dodgers, and Padres tied the record of four hits in his first time out as a major league player. The southpaw outfielder had a .226 batting average in 487 times at bat. As with Glenn Burke before him, Billy didn’t dare acknowledge his homosexuality. His coming out September 6, 1999, after he retired from eight years as a pro, landed him on the front page of the sports section of the New York Times and as a guest on 20/20.
He enjoys life nowadays as an author of Going The Other Way, consultant, and openly gay TV personality. Billy has also spearheaded an effort to downplay “ex-gay” ministers who believe that forcing young boys to play sports will cure them of their homosexuality.
Ice skating has known and been proud of Rudy Galindo since his first championship in 1982. The mention of his name and sport however usually sends rednecks all over the country laughing, “That ain’t no real-man sport! Hell, my wife wears less sequins and makeup that them fags do!” To answer them, I’m sure Rudy would challenge them to match his phenomenal physical strength, perseverance, and athletic prowess – to fly like he does, and then to land safely without killing themselves. Nor could they equal his dedication to the sport by stubbornly returning to the ice after a double hip replacement in 2003 mere weeks after the surgery, and competing professionally the following April.
Galindo’s whirlwind career solidified itself when he took the U.S. National Novice Men’s Championship in 1982. He went on to partner with Kristi Yamaguchi to win several U.S. National Pairs Championships. He has also won or placed in several World Junior Men’s and Men’s Championships, and was a fixture on the Champions on Ice tour until it folded in 2007. All this despite being diagnosed a decade earlier as HIV+ in 1996.
"To be a truly great champion you must be so dedicated that the sport becomes woven into the warp and woof of your life."
Chris was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000. Since his career began in 1965, he’s been Junior Mr. USA (Most Muscular), Mr. New York State, and Mr. California. In 1970 he became the first African-American AAU Mr. America. He has also been Mr. Universe, Mr. World, and just to make sure everyone was impressed with his 30-year career, at the age of 43 he became the oldest Mr. Olympia in 1982. He earned the 2008 Ben Weider Lifetime Achievement Award, and his method of posing in competition is considered second to none as witnessed by this video.
On top of all that, he’s a respected opera singer.
Despite coming out publicly just before the Olympics, Australia’s openly homosexual golden boy Matthew Mitcham is living the life that gay American sports heroes can only dream of. Australia even issued a 50-cent postage stamp in his honor the day after his Olympic diving triumph. Johnson and Johnson covered the expenses so that his lover Lachlan Fletcher could attend the games as a spectator. Mitcham's being gay is such a non-issue in his home country, their media was shocked at some of the legal precautions he had to take while competing in other countries (particularly in the Middle East). At one point he was asked to forgo his appearance on the Gay Pride float in Australia’s Mardi Gras parade in order to appear on the local morning shows instead!
Mitcham fever hit its peak during the Beijing Olympic Games’ 10m platform event. There, Matthew knocked down what was then considered the undefeatable Chinese diving team and in the process earned the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history with a perfectly executed 112.10-point back two and a half somersault with two and a half twists. Up until the last dive of the competition, China’s Zhou Luxin had a 30 point lead, but Matthew smashed it spectacularly, beating his impressive 533.15 score with his own 537.95… all at the age of 20. A few months later he won the 2008 Diving Grand Prix, and was voted Australia Sportsman of the year for 2008 by his peers and fellow countrymen.
Because of the treatment that they get in their own countries, of the 11,028 athletes competing in the Beijing Olympics, only 11 were out and proud gays. The odds are that that left approximately 1,091 just as deserving gay athletes out in their cold closets.
"When you compete, you need to focus on your strength, but when you're in the closet, what you focus on is fear and vulnerability."
"The fear of rejection is the ultimate overriding factor that makes it really difficult to make yourself stand out in any way, and certainly in a way that might not be seen so positively by your teammates."
Amongst other things, Mark is known for doing something not many other athletes can do — breaking his own world records. In fact at the Canadian Winter Nationals in Winnipeg he did it twice in two days… and without a high-tech body suit. By the time Tewksbury retired in 1992 he owned the 100m short-course backstroke and had earned six world records in the event plus one short-course world record in the 200m backstroke. Aside from medaling for Canada in the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Mark also achieved good showings in the Pan Pacific Games from 1987 through 1991.
Mark has earned several Canadian Athlete of the Year awards, including the prestigious Lou March Trophy, the Lionel Conacher Award, and the Norton H. Crow Award. He has also been inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the Olympic Hall of Fame, was named Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year, and is in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
In 1996, Mark was an integral part of the International Olympic Committee that selected the site of the 2004 Summer Olympics, but became embroiled in a conflict over the treatment of Olympic Athletes and perceived corruption in the organization. In 1998 Mark disclosed his homosexuality and several months later resigned his position at the IOC, deciding instead to concentrate on his role in bringing the celebrated Gay Games/Out Games to Montreal, an event that he hosted in 2006.
Though his coming out did little to damage his athletic reputation, it cost him a very lucrative job as a motivational speaker because he was suddenly “too gay,” despite his talent in the field that landed him the position in the first place. CBC Sports apparently didn’t agree and hired him as a play-by-play announcer and commentator at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Today Mark is involved with his own motivational speaking, has recently published his autobiography entitled Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock, is involved in Canadian politics, and sits on the boards of several important gay organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.
With so many asking me to do a sequel to my 2006 article "How Many Famous Athletes are Gay," I began pondering why I’d written the original article in the first place. I believe that I was trying to get the general public to consider people like American pro football’s Esera Tuaolo, Dave Kopay, and Australian Rules’ Ian Roberts, in order to illustrate that all gay men aren’t sex-crazed, little-boy-chasing, limp-wristed fairy queens. Nor are all lesbians like tennis greats Billie Jean King or Martina Navratilova, all chopped-haired “bulls” that ride motorcycles and become ranking officers in the military.
According to Navratilova, fighting such destructive negative stereotypes is important where gay high school athletes are concerned, especially when they’re forming their own self-images. Many teenage gay athletes have committed and/or attempted suicide through the years because of the treatment they've received at the hands of their own teammates and coaches. When pro basketball player John Amaechi came out, Martina is quoted as saying of him and gay sports figures in general, "It's hugely important for the kids so they don't feel alone in the world. We're role models. We're adults, and we know we're not alone but kids don't know that." Referring to small-town gay athletes feeling alone, Martina said, "He will definitely help a lot of kids growing up to feel better about themselves."
Referring to John Amaechi’s coming out, ex-pro defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo spoke of his similar public experiences before and after the disclosure of his own homosexuality. "What John did is amazing. He does not know how many lives he's saved by speaking the truth. Living with all that stress and that depression, all you deal with as a closeted person, when you come out you really truly free yourself," he said. "When I came out, it felt like I was getting out of prison."
Most American gays take offense at the local media making a point of only filming the stereotypical over-painted and glittered drag queens and “dykes on bikes” during annual gay pride parades. Why? Because more often than not, and like it or not, American gays and lesbians look and act like your typical next door neighbor, the popular high school linebacker, your office mate, or even your best friend.