Gays in sports: Why we care

Gays in sports: Why we care
March 29, 2013, 10:00 am
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 We are only talking about a public announcement here, not the actual discovery of a gay athlete in a team sport. (AP)

There already are gays in team sports, their teammates know it, and no locker room has been fractured over it. Not one.

I want to care about Kwame Harris’ decision to come out, I truly do. On the other hand, I want even more not to care, and we are thankfully getting closer to that stage of human development.

The former Stanford, 49er and Raider tackle, had a troubling incident with a companion last year that sort of revealed his sexuality, but for him to be able to say freely that he is gay is good for his peace of mind.

And that is a good thing.

But we are entering a fascinating new national view of gays – that too many anti-gay people have gay family members or acquaintances for that belief to be comfortable any more. On the gay marriage front, more people, even conservatives who need votes to keep their jobs, have reached that “Fine by me” stage.

Or at least that “this is no longer a good argument for me to have” stage.

This position, then, is the new base camp on gays in America – that the weight of the evidence should convince any reasonable person that worrying about gay people as a threat to the nation is simply absurd. It’s not the home run of universal acceptance, but it is a nice, ringing double.

So, Kwame Harris is gay. And I do not care, except that he seems to be at a greater peace with it. That’s sufficient for me.

Now the next great sporting “When” is the one that comes next, the one in which an active player in one of the four major team sports comes out. And I want to be indifferent on that, too, because intellectual consistency demands it.

First of all, we are only talking about a public announcement here, not the actual discovery of a gay athlete in a team sport. There already are gays in team sports, their teammates know it, and no locker room has been fractured over it. Not one. Thus, we aren’t even arguing about whether gay players could disrupt a team. That’s been settled, and long ago.

Rather, the reason why the anonymous gay athlete to whom Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com referred in his piece earlier this month is fear of what an unhinged fan (or just plain unhinged person) might do. The fear of disrupting the team is essentially a false one, one which would be categorically disproven if an elite player was the one to do so.

Put another way, if Colin Kaepernick announced today that he is gay, any 49er fan who has an issue with homosexuality would have to weigh that against preferring an inferior quarterback on his or her favorite team. I like that kind of dilemma because I know how it would almost always end. On the side of winning Sundays.

That’s the same as saying, “No, I really don’t care that much about hating gay people.” That is the ideal position.

The problem comes with the fear that someone whose hatred for gays supersedes all other factors, and who might attempt to bring harm for their own twisted mental ends.

So that’s why we still have to care, at least some. Not because of the notoriety, or the public attention, or the potential disruption that actually is a two-day deal, tops. Those are all media issues, not human issues.

No, we still have to care because there is still at least some small reason for that player to fear the dark unknown. We still have to admire the courage, we still have to note the desire for freedom, and we still have to care.

At least for awhile longer.