'The Last Barrier' on CSN Bay Area

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'The Last Barrier' on CSN Bay Area

Programming note: The show premieres Saturday at 3 p.m. on NBC Bay Area and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Monday, Dec. 10 at 8:30 p.m.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I saw the movie “Lincoln” in the theater. If you have not seen it yet, the backdrop of the movie is the abolishment of slavery and the passing of the 13th Amendment. You know how that ended.

But as I sat in my seat, something else was cemented in my mind. There’s another issue that holds our society back as a whole nearly 150 years later. Yes, we’re not a fully formed nation on many issues, but the state Gay Rights is in the United States is still very much incomplete. I’m not here to state my views or to lead anyone down a path. But the facts are what they are at this point.

Back in September, we began working on a show on what we know best – sports. The hook was simple - Why has there never been an active male gay athlete in the four major sports?

In our hour-long special, The Last Barrier, we look at all of the issues surrounding the topic. Some reasons are simple to understand, and some are just antiquated beliefs of decades ago. Statistically, somewhere near four percent of Americans are gay. Yet, zero male athletes have ever come out while playing. Dozens have come out after their playing days ended, but never while active. That’s hard to believe.

We enlisted the help of an impressive group of opinionated people on the subject. The topics range from how an out player would be received in the locker room/clubhouse to whether it matters if the player is a superstar or role player.

A male athlete coming out while playing will be no easy feat. Our panel is very honest about the realities such a player would face. It’s not much of a stretch to think some of the same problems Jackie Robinson faced in the 1940s would surface in today’s game. Sure, the media would not allow players to say bigoted things publicly. But what gets said in the confines of a stadium or arena rarely makes it to the general public. That is what we try to uncover: What are true feelings of male team sports in 2012 towards gay athletes? 

[RELATED: 'The Last Barrier' examines challenges facing gay athletes during their playing careers]

The show premieres Saturday at 3:00 pm on NBC Bay Area and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Monday, December 10th at 8:30pm. The guest list includes Rick Welts, President and COO of the Golden State Warriors; Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings punter; Patrick Burke, co-founder of “You Can Play” and Philadelphia Flyers scout; Dave Kopay, former NFL player; Cyd Zeigler, Jr., co-founder of OutSports.com; and Amani Toomer, Bay Area native, former NFL player and NBC Sports NFL analyst.

CSNBayArea.com Senior Insider Ray Ratto and former MLB player, Comcast SportsNet analyst and current MLB scout Shooty Babitt give their thoughts in studio.

Below are some excerpts from the show:

Rick Welts (Warriors President & COO):
On what’s keeping professional athletes from coming out: “I think we’re at a point of time in our society where I think it’s inevitable. That step will be taken. I think it’ll be ‘What took so long’ at that point. But it’ll be a tremendously courageous thing for a pro athlete, especially if they are at the peak of their career, to take that step”.

Chris Kluwe (Vikings punter):
On if an NFL locker room is ready for on openly gay player: “I think if someone were to come out as openly gay, it would be tough for them. But I think they would have a lot more support than they’d realize. Like I said, a lot of the younger generation coming up in the NFL realize it’s not about your sexuality; it’s not about who you want to marry. It’s about how can you help this team win on Sunday.”

Patrick Burke (Co-Founder of the ‘You Can Play’ and Flyers scout):
On when he expects to see an openly gay player in the NHL: “I think we’ll have an openly gay player in the next two years. I think the response ‘You Can Play’ has gotten from the players and the media proves to the closeted gay players that we know we have in the league, that our league is ready for it.”

Amani Toomer (NFL veteran and NBC Sports NFL analyst):
On whether the first NFL gay athlete to come out is a superstar versus a role player: “I think if it was a superstar player, people would be that much more accepting. If you’re a superstar player and you’re helping the team win, and you’re the face of the franchise, and you come out gay, I don’t think that would change your position at all. He’ll be the exact same person in terms of the players; you’ll be the exact same person in terms of the fans, because ultimately at the end of the day, all people want to see is their team win. I don’t think fans care about the sexual orientation of players, and I don’t think the players in the locker room care about sexual orientation. It’s all about winning.”

Cyd Ziegler, Jr., (Co-Founder of OutSports.com):
On the reaction of an active professional athlete coming out: “What’s amazing is how many people think it’s going to be hard for a professional athlete to come out of the closet. Every shred of evidence when we talk to the media and we talk to the fans, team executives, Fortune 500 companies, every single one of them says ‘I’m good with this.’ I think we’re going to look back a month after it happens and say ‘Wow, this is incredible, not what I expected.’”

On the myth straight athletes are homophobic: “I’ve talked to two dozen NFL players over the last year and every single one of them not only expressed support for gay athletes but they talked about their gay brothers, sisters, cousins. This idea that the locker room is this horrible, homophobic place is just not true anymore.”

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

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AP

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."