Homosexuality and Sports
There was bound to be at least one gay man in NBA basketball and who knows how many more in professional sports. In women’s sports there has always been homosexuality and the more masculine the sport the more lesbians. When I played college basketball at a Division III school, looking back on it I had at least three teammates who were gay. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now. When I played Rugby at the University of Oregon, I was one of four girls who was straight. But it didn’t really matter, it wasn’t about the color of your skin, your gender, or sexual orientation it was about playing the game.
I think it was Chris Rock who said, you never want to be the first black anything, and as Jason said, his coming out was preemptive, “I shouldn’t have to live under the threat of being outed. The announcement should be mine to make not TMZ’s.” He’s right. I was in a meeting in Sudan working with a humanitarian aid organization when the Country Director announced that our new colleague from America was gay. They were worried about Sudan being a safe place for him. But really that choice belongs to him and him alone. I hate it when people put limitations on my abilities because of my disability or make decisions about what they think I can or can’t do. I empathized.
The announcement was most unfortunate because his boss was Afghan/ Canadian and had never really interacted with a gay person before.
“Will he be looking at me,” Ali asked.
I rolled my eyes and explained that just because he was gay didn’t mean he was attracted to all men. “No, hell, I’m straight and I don’t even look at you.” We laughed. I explained to him that his new employee’s sexual orientation wouldn’t even be an issue. “He’s just like you and me except he dates men.”
Eventually Ali and our outed employee became friends and there were no more discussions about homosexuality.
As a female wheelchair basketball athlete I’ve played on several men’s teams and it wasn’t like I was checking out my teammates or members of the other teams as potential dates. More often than not I was more inclined to kill them than kiss them; particularly after being subjected to comments like “You’re pretty good for a girl.” Or after fouling a member of the men’s team from Mobile, Alabama he turned to the ref and said, “Awww that’s all right ref, she smells awfully nice.”
When I traveled to Bosnia as one of two women on an elite team to teach veteran’s of the war wheelchair basketball the men’s teams we played against we’re sure they would beat us, because we had women on our team. When they didn’t it became a matter of pride and instead of playing the local teams as we were scheduled to do their national team traveled around and played us. They won one game.
For Jason’s sake I hope his being gay doesn’t devolve into an issue for the NBA. I hope the fans are respectful. And if it appears to be moving in that direction perhaps they can take a page from women’s sports (which would be another first) and focus on the game and abilities rather than extraneous stuff that has nothing to do with the sport.