Out of Left Field: Inequality: that’s a personal foul

Carly2With so much discussion about the direction our country is taking toward equal rights for the gay and lesbian community, you would assume anything sports would be the last place to be affected. However, now that the concept of equality is rearing itself to eventually be an American custom, there are now athletes who are coming out and receiving balanced amounts of support and criticism.

It’s a shame to say the majority of criticism would come from their teammates, who believe the foundation of the respective sport would crumble if players were to come out as openly gay. In the sporting world, Mile High Sports columnist Mark Knudson argued that publically admitting your sexuality isn’t what’s best for the team.

“(Regular people) aren’t traveling across North America and going into intense competition in hostile environments and then being expected to perform flawlessly as a unit,” he said. “And they aren’t showering together afterwards. Important distinctions.”

While I read further, I thought about why we join sports teams in the first place. The values of unity, camaraderie and teamwork all came to mind when I flashed back to why my parents signed me up for baseball when I was six.

Wouldn’t being ostracized because of sexuality annul these qualities people develop? It seems in cases like these, professional athletes need to put aside their differences to achieve a larger goal.

Many of these athletes are taken by surprise when a teammate announces he or she is gay. Former San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Kwame Harris remained closeted his entire career, coming out after his retirement and shocking fellow players. His teammates reported they had no idea.

It goes to show these athletes can possibly be the same people they practiced with, the same linemen who protected the quarterback’s blind side for seasons on end Their sexuality did not and will not hinder their performance or their etiquette. Working environments all over the country are one by one accepting people in the gay community as their co-workers, superintendents, CEOs and business partners.

As much as we don’t think so, professional sports are just like any other job. It seems counter progressive to refuse to get with the program of accepting football, basketball and baseball players for their athletic abilities and not who they choose to be with.

I’m not trying to generalize the pro-athlete community. Professional teams and athletes have been increasingly tolerant of LGBT issues. Linebacker Scott Fujita for the Cleveland Browns said he believes many NFL players would not mind playing with an openly gay teammate.

As a sports fanatic, it disappoints me that professional sports are at this divide. It’s not a distraction and it’s not selfish for these players to admit who they are. If anything is a distraction from working for a Super Bowl ring or the Stanley Cup, it’s this very argument we’re witnessing.

Don’t worry about what your teammate is doing off the field. As long as he or she is working toward the group incentive to win games, I don’t necessarily see a problem here and neither should anybody else. Pad up, shut up and give me a good game.

 Column by Carly Besser, Assistant Sports Editor.