A couple of decades ago, many gay men would never have considered coming out as gay athletes. This has recently changed. In the past few years, many men in various types of sports have gathered up courage to come out to their coaches, team, and institution. A few of these men include Derek Schell, Matt Korman, and Jason Collins. Not only are these men receiving great encouragement from LGBT-supporters around the country, but they may also be receiving full support from their straight team members. Although more anecdotal, I thought this short post could highlight some of the changes that occurring in the professional athletic culture.
It has been very well documented in the previous literature that straight men have more negative attitudes towards gay men than do straight women1. Gay men who perceive these negative attitudes from their straight teammates might have found it difficult to come out. However, now that gay men are feeling more comfortable with the idea of coming out to their fellow teammates, could it be possible that the attitudes of straight men are changing?
Many prominent straight athletes are now speaking out about the rejection that gay athletes have experienced by their team and management. In turn, team management and many straight team members have come out with full support for their gay male players. Even straight players who have uttered gay slurs have been reprimanded by sports management. An example of this was seen last month when NASCAR punished Nelson Piquet Jr. for uttering a gay slur via Instagram2. Piquet was fined $10,000 and ordered to attend sensitivity training for his action. Even though we would want such an action to be reprimanded, a gay slur wouldn’t even have been considered deleterious to other team members in the past.
Granted, prejudice towards gay men still exists in the professional athletic world. Nonetheless, because of the recent positive press that gay athletes are receiving along with the positive support from their team, it is possible that negative attitudes towards gay men are slowly being extinguished.
Are you a straight man or a gay man on sports team? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
1. Herek, G. M. (1988). Heterosexuals’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 451-477.