Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The closet is still closed


Anyone who thinks that a public outcry and three game suspension against a baseball player for a homophobic slur represent a societal turning point might want to dial back their expectations. In the bigger battle for acceptance, it's not enough for social and mainstream media do-gooders to satisfy their own consciences with fish-in-a-barrel lip service against a hapless target like Yunel Escobar.
The gay athletic community needs a Jackie Robinson. The dynamics are different and the struggle is no less daunting in many ways, but men's professional team sports are more ready for an openly gay superstar in 2012 than America was prepared for a black major league baseball player in 1947. In breaking baseball's color barrier, Robinson exposed himself to enormous hostility and abuse but never wavered, and in time became an accepted and respected American icon. Robinson couldn't hide the fact that he was black the way a gay or lesbian athlete can fly under the radar if he or she so chooses, and that's the choice the overwhelming majority have made. Up to and even into this century, that was the expedient and even prudent course, but the past 10 years have been a watershed - socially, politically and legally. The Escobar episode demonstrates that there is not only support for but PRESSURE to support same sex equality, to the point where even the most moderate adversaries are summarily branded as bigots.
Jackie Robinson changed history with a handful of advocates at his side. An openly gay baseball, basketball, football or hockey star in the existing socio-political climate would be an instant hero to tens of millions of people. If ever there was a time for a team sport athlete of significant stature to come out publicly and do for their community what Jackie Robinson did for his, it's now.
So where is he?

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