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Volume 24 No. 156

Sports in Society

MLB “blazed the trail toward racial equality when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947,” and USA TODAY's Jorge Ortiz wonders if the sport is “ready to take on a pioneering role when it comes to homosexual players and perhaps have the first openly gay active athlete in North America's four major sports?” Ortiz in a sports-section cover story writes the signs “have been mixed.” MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred said, "I have great faith in the players, and I think baseball will be a leader on this issue; I really do." But one “could argue baseball has fallen behind.” An alliance of athletes last week joined NFLers Brendon Ayanbadejo, Scott Fujita and Chris Kluwe “in supporting their brief filed to the Supreme Court challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage.” The names of 10 current NFLers and “representatives from North America's other major sports leagues are on the brief, but none” is from MLB. Ayanbadejo said that he believes MLB's “environment might be most conducive for a player to come out.” MLB made strides “by adding language barring discrimination based on sexual orientation to its latest collective bargaining agreement, signed in November 2011.” But MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner acknowledged that the measure, suggested “by the players association, was taken for legal reasons and not because of a desire to make a social statement.” Reds manager Dusty Baker said, "I don't think the world is at that stage (of accepting them). It's not baseball. It's the world." Still, there are “signs of growing openness among players.” A’s P Brandon McCarthy said that the “argument that an openly gay player could make teammates uncomfortable in the clubhouse environment is silly.” Some players “believe the biggest deterrent to a gay player making his sexuality public is less the potential clubhouse reception and more the inevitable media attention” (USA TODAY, 3/26).

SOONER RATHER THAN LATER:'s Mike Freeman wrote there are “serious indications” the day when an openly gay man will be a member of an NFL team “may come sooner than later.” Freeman cited current and former players over the “past several weeks" who said that a “current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months -- and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career.” The player reportedly “feels the time is now for someone to take this step.” This player's “true concern” is not the reaction “inside an NFL locker room but outside of it.” The player reportedly “fears he will suffer serious harm from homophobic fans, and that is the only thing preventing him from coming out.” Sources “will not say who this alleged player is.” Freeman noted there has “never been an active openly gay player in a major American team sport” (, 3/25).

AT THE FOREFRONT: Warriors President Rick Welts appeared on S.F.’s KNTV-NBC to discuss his decision almost two years ago to announce he is gay. KNTV's Raj Mathai said that Welts is a “major player in the world of basketball but his legacy is in the gay community.” Welts said of the decision to announce his sexuality, “I started to think about, if I did this and did it in a certain way would I have the opportunity to make a contribution to the dialogue on sexuality, especially in male professional sports?” Welts said the first active player who does reveal he is gay is going to be “surprised at what a positive response they’re going to get not only from fans, but teammates (and) companies that have them maybe as endorsers.” Welts said, “I think it’s going to be a good experience” (“The Interview With Raj Mathai,” KNTV-NBC, 3/24).