Are MLB, NFL Equally Prepared To Handle An Athlete Coming Out As NBA Was With Collins?
The NBA is probably the "best equipped of the major sports leagues to handle" the announcement that an active player is gay, as it has been an "open-minded league in many ways as far as accepting people with differences," according to SI's Lee Jenkins. There has been "pretty much universal support" among league personnel to Wizards C Jason Collins announcing he is gay. Jenkins said he is not sure the same atmosphere has been created in other sports, "specifically the NFL, but even Major League Baseball." Jenkins: "Those sports, the leagues, they're not as into letting players show their personalities. Freedom of identity and expression isn’t quite the same as it is in the NBA.” The NBA is the "kind of arena that might allow a person or make a person feel okay about coming forward” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 4/29). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, "If you had to choose a league that might address it the best, it would be the NBA. The league has been ahead in a number of areas” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/29). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said of the NBA, "This is a league where they have minority ownership, they have female referees, black executives and black head coaches. So to me, you talk about the NBA and tolerance, they’ve been at the forefront of really being a diverse league” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 4/29). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said it is “probably a good thing that it happened in professional basketball as opposed to certain other locker rooms." Wilbon: "I’m going to specifically say professional football and baseball, where the culture of the locker rooms are different. ... They are less tolerant than professional basketball.” Wilbon said he expects "more people coming out now" after Collins' announcement, and he hopes there is "not that much backlash” ("PTI," ESPN, 4/29).
IS MLB READY? In N.Y., Andy Martino wondered if MLB is “ready for what just happened in the NBA.” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “Anytime it happens for the first time it's a little bit of a shock. But I believe baseball would handle it well.” Martino wrote there are “progressive folks working at all levels of MLB, people who would accept with all their hearts a gay player.” But Martino wrote, “Extensive time in clubhouses has demonstrated to me that anti-gay sentiment, both sneering and casual, still pervades.” MLB once “led the country on race, but there are many reasons to believe it will lag behind basketball and other sports on the defining civil rights issue of this moment” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 4/29). MLB.com’s Adam Berry wrote the response from most of MLB is ready for an openly gay player “was a resounding yes.” Brewers LF Ryan Braun: “It's definitely a step in a positive direction I think for all athletes, and hopefully for society in general." Cardinals GM John Mozeliak: “I would assume that day's coming in baseball." Royals RF Jeff Francoeur: "I absolutely think he'd be accepted" (MLB.com, 4/29). Mets 3B David Wright said, “If you can play the game, come on in. You’re welcome.” (NJ.com, 4/29). Angels DH Mark Trumbo: “It's nice to see people rallying around him." Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked if he believes MLB is “ready to accept an openly gay player.” Scioscia said, "It's not an issue. Not an issue" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/30). Cubs 2B Darwin Barney: “I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal. I think he’ll be protected just fine” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/30).
WHAT ABOUT NFL? ESPN’s Darren Woodson, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons, said having gay teammates is "accepted in the locker room ... and I just don’t see a problem with it in this day and age.” The NFL prior to Collins’ announcement yesterday distributed a document to teams reiterating its anti-discrimination policy on sexual orientation, and Woodson said, "That’s smart. The league is trying to protect itself and it’s doing it the right way and it’s about education. ... The league has to get out and be proactive because the world is changing” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 4/29). However, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the “big concern among NFL teams” is the “distraction” that would ensue if an NFL player announced he is gay (“PFT,” NBC Sports Network, 4/29).
ROAD BACK FOR ROGERS? Former U.S. national soccer team MF Robbie Rogers announced he is gay in February and said as a “professional athlete especially, you try to live up to the stereotype of this macho athlete.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, “There’s obviously a lot of people who would like to see you continue on in soccer ... for the message that it would send.” Rogers said he does “feel pressure” to play. But if he goes back to playing, “I want to go back as a soccer player, I don’t want to go back as the gay soccer player” (“Anderson Cooper 360,” CNN, 4/29).