SBD/17/Sports Society

ESPN'S "OUTSIDE THE LINES" EXAMINES THE GAY ATHLETE

          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).

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ESPN, Sports in Society, Walt Disney, WNBA

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