Professional athletic locker rooms aren't like prison showers
February 16, 2007
Sometimes I really don’t get men, and not because they’re so complicated, but because they just don’t make any sense. Even though there is a myriad of topics I could go into with that statement, I’m going to focus on homophobia in sports.
Another retired professional athlete came out of the closet fairly recently, the first NBA player to do so, eliciting responses from the sports world which were perhaps better left unsaid. NBA commissioner David Stern threw out the highly-evolved Bush military motto of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” just shoot.
Philadelphia 76ers f orward Shavlik Randolph sent out his warning of “Don’t bring your gayness on me.” I was hoping that Randolph was an ugly European guy who would have no need to worry about oncoming gayness, but, unfortunately, he’s pretty good looking and born in America. Darn — and now I guess I’m going to start watching more Sixers games.
Even the Houston Rockets’ Tracy McGrady’s comments, accepting and understanding of a gay teammate as they were, warned closeted athletes to not have any ideas about getting frisky with him. What is with these athletes who think they are such hot pieces of man meat that the mere sight of their sudsy bottoms in the shower will incite any gay man into a sexual frenzy? It’s supposed to be flattering to be desired anyways. In no way does it mean you have to go on a date with them, and last I knew, a men’s locker room was a far cry from a prison shower.
But what I know comes from movies and speculation, I swear! There are probably several active homosexual athletes on TV and on our fantasy teams. There are probably even more gay athletes at the college and high school levels. The threat of being ostracized or abused has probably inhibited the play of these athletes and shattered their self-confidence. Hundreds, several, or perhaps just one athlete has been prevented from achieving greatness on the playing field, and that one dream lost is one too many.
Let’s pretend for just a split second that Michael Jordan was into dudes. If he had been unable to fulfill his potential because of even the fear of persecution from those around him, the athletic world would have missed out on, not only an amazing basketball player, but one of the best athletes ever and a pretty darn good guy. And we wouldn’t have “Space Jam.”
A lot of comparisons are being raised between Jackie Robinson and whoever decides to be the first open and active gay athlete. Jackie Robinson started playing professional baseball in 1947. That was sixty years ago, my friends.
I really hope that we have learned enough in six decades to put our fear of whatever aside and accept each person for who they are as a person, not for what we think they are. After all, without Jackie Robinson, we would not have had Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, and the list goes on and on. Imagine the talent that could be denied because of ignorance, naivety and fear in the 21st Century.
Cassie Rodgers is a student at UW-River Falls.