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ESPN'S "OUTSIDE THE LINES" EXAMINES THE GAY ATHLETE
Published December 17, 1998
On ESPN's "Outside the Lines: The World of the Gay Athlete," Greg Garber examined the impact on an athlete's marketability if they go public with their homosexuality. Garber said that according to agent Leigh Steinberg it would be "easier to represent and secure endorsements for a convicted felon than for a gay player." Steinberg: "I think [coming out] would have a devastating effect in terms of the marketability of any athlete to come out and talk about gayness." An ESPN Chilton Sports poll asked sports fans, "If your favorite professional player announced that he was gay, would you be more or less likely to support him?" The results: 70.2% said no difference/more likely, while 28.2% felt less likely. Garber: "Some athletes believe that potential loss, of more than a quarter of a gay player's fan base, is what keeps [them] in the closet" (ESPN, 12/16). IMPACT ON WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: ESPN's Bob Ley reported that, according to former ABL player Kirsten Cummings, 35- 40% of the players in both the ABL and the WNBA "are gay." Ley: "Insurance coverage for same sex partners is an issue for the new WNBA players union. And while both leagues have many lesbian fans, not a single current player in either league has come out publicly." Steinberg on rumors of his clients being gay, which include QBs Steve Young and Troy Aikman: "I've really never had an athlete tell me that he was gay. And in the case of some of the athletes that are speculated about, they ... [are] not only not gay, but heavily heterosexual. So its all the more ironic. But again, there have been times when I've talked to people in the press who have asked me direct questions, and I answer then directly, but not on the record or not for attribution, because the difficult part of it is that if the word 'gay' or 'homosexual' is connected in public with an athlete, it will starve him for some period of time" (ESPN, 12/16).