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The sports community has known, for quite some time, that gay athletes exist. If 4 percent of Americans identify as gay, and there are thousands of American professional athletes, the chances of there being zero gay athletes were basically nonexistent. What wasn’t known was how other players, or team decision-makers, might react to a gay professional athlete. Would he or she be mocked and ridiculed? Would teammates ask to shower separately? Would the athlete be paid less than a hetereosexual athlete? These unknowns, and the fears that came with being openly gay in locker rooms that are dripping with machismo, have likely kept dozens, if not hundreds of gay athletes from coming out.
But in the last two weeks, professional sports as a whole has taken steps toward embracing the gay community.
• Not only has NFL prospect Michael Sam come out, he came out to his teammates a year ago and found their response to be one of love and support. Not a single one of his teammates let his secret get out of the locker room until Sam himself was ready to tell his story.
• NBA center Jason Collins, who came out almost a year ago but hasn’t played in an NBA game since, was signed by the Brooklyn Nets this week. In his debut against the Lakers, the Los Angeles crowd gave him a standing-ovation and his teammates took every opportunity to show their support for him. His No. 98 Nets jersey has become the league’s No. 1 seller in the last week.
• While the country waited to see if Arizona’s governor would veto an anti-gay bill, MLB made a public statement against the measure and seemed to vaguely threaten to move its many Spring Training facilities located within the state if the bill passed. Meanwhile, the NFL was making plans to move next February’s Super Bowl if the bill passed (Gov. Jan Brewer killed the bill Wednesday).
I’m glad we’ve reached a place where gay athletes can be just as open and honest about themselves as their teammates are. Maybe now we can worry about the games and stop concerning ourselves with meaningless differences between the people who play.
You’re reading the Sports Report, our weekly compilation of news and information for the San Diego sports fan.
A Smooth Start to Spring Training
• In an attempt to counteract the rash of injuries the team faced last year, the Padres are changing just about everything they can think of. From the infield dirt to the players’ diets, the teams seems focused on eliminating whatever it was that caused those injuries last season, even if it was just blind luck.
• The Padres made quite a splash this week with the announcement of their “Swing for Your Seats” promotion, where fans will be given the chance to hit a homerun at PETCO Park to win a pair of season tickets.
• The new, much larger, screen has been installed on the back of the batter’s eye at PETCO Park. This should make for a much better experience for those purchasing “Park passes” to Padres games this season.
• Spencer Manners from FanGraphs explained exactly why Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko is such a special player. This is a good argument for why the team should lock up its young star with a long-term contract while it still can.
Chargers Plan for Free Agency and the Draft
• As many suspected, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was one of the league’s least-aggressive coaches this season and made the incorrect decision on fourth down more often than other head coaches. His first season in San Diego was great, but McCoy will have some improvements to make before next year begins.
• It was rumored that Chargers center Nick Hardwick would be retiring this offseason, but he’s decided to play out the final year of his contract. Hardwick had one of the best seasons of his career this past year and there’s no reason to believe he’ll regress in 2014.
• Contract negotiations between the Chargers and linebacker Donald Butler have stalled. This isn’t likely to work itself out before free agency begins on March 11, meaning the team will need to start coming up with plans to replace Butler. (Update: Looks like they worked it out after all.)
• At first look, it appears the Chargers want to add another pass-rusher to the team to complement Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney, and they could find that player through May’s NFL Draft.
Stories You May Have Missed
• The Milwaukee Brewers have adopted a stray dog, or rather, a stray dog adopted the team when he walked into the clubhouse after being hit by a car. He has since become the team’s unofficial mascot, even taking place in the famed sausage race, dressed as a little hot dog. Shut it down, everyone. The Brewers are a lock to win the World Series this year.
• This year’s Daytona 500 NASCAR race was delayed six hours due to rain. During the delay, FOX decided to air a replay of last year’s race. Unfortunately, not everyone realized that they weren’t watching the live race.
• Texas is about the only place in the world where it seems logical to spend $60 million on a high school football stadium. It’s also the only place that doesn’t bat an eye when that same stadium literally starts coming apart a year later. If the Chargers don’t end up getting a new stadium in San Diego, perhaps they can move to Texas to play high school football.
• GIF of the Week: One of the coolest parts of the NFL Combine is when they match up 40-yard dash runs against each other. This year was no different, with the highlight coming when Johnny Manziel faced off against 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.
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I’m John Gennaro, contributor to Active Voice and managing editor of Bolts from the Blue. You can tweet me @john_gennaro or e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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