Sure, no major athletes came out this year, but 2012 was still a pretty good year for queer people in sports: tons of major league athletes openly talked about how they’d support openly gay teammates. There may not yet be an openly gay athlete, but at least the groundwork has been laid.
And according to HuffPo’s Jon Paul Fiorentino, 2013 may see the first openly gay athlete, if the change in sports culture is any indication.
In women’s sports, the tide has already started to turn. Olympic soccer player Megan Rapinoe came out this year and received an outpouring of support by her teammates and fans. The men are lagging behind. I believe this has to do with to an outdated code of secrecy, shame, and silence that pervades professional sports.
Men have been stunted by the notion of traditional “family values” that is conjured when participating in sports as fans or as athletes. Indeed, hatred (dressed up as traditional values) led to a Emmitt C. Burns Jr.’s repellant attempt to suppress another American’s right to freedom of expression by claiming to speak for the traditional “fan base.” As Frank Bruni points out, “The possibility that coming out might rankle management or sour fans … keeps gay athletes in the closet."
It appears that the culture of professional sports is still largely a culture of bullying. But thanks in part to Ayanbadejo and Kluwe, as well as Patrick Burke’s groundbreaking “You Can Play Project” (whose slogan “Gay Athletes. Straight Allies. Teaming Up For Respect” says it all), the culture is changing. These activists have elevated the discourse in a world that is notorious for its rigid, limited, and archaic notions of heternormativity.
Personally, I’m really hoping that Brendon Ayanbadejo was actually gay this whole time. I mean, my god, have you seen that man? That is just an impossibly gorgeous man.