Gays In Sports

Notable Events

In 1975, former NFL football player, running back David
Kopay came out. In 1977, Kopay co-wrote, The David
Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-Revelation, which has
inspired many gay athletes, including Billie Jean King.
Incredibly, since Kopay came out, no mainstream, active
professional athlete from the NHL, NBA, NFL, or MLB has
come out.

In 1981, one of the all-time greatest tennis players,
Martina Navratilova, came out at the age of 18. Notably,
as stated by Donna Loppiano, executive director of the
Women’s Sports Foundation, “Martina was the first
legitimate superstar who literally came out while she was
a superstar. She exploded the barrier by putting it on the
table. She basically said, ‘This part of my life doesn’t have
anything to do with me as a tennis player. Judge me who
I am.’”

In 1977, female transgendered tennis player Renee
Richards won the right to play in the Women’s U.S. Open

In 1981, tennis icon Billie Jean King was publicly
outed. Billie Jean King currently advocates for ending
homophobia in sports.

In 1988, MLB Umpire Dave Pallone was fired by the
MLB because he was gay. Thereafter, Pallone wrote
a book entitled, Behind the Mask: My Double Life in
Baseball, in which he stated he could field an All-Star
team with all of the closeted gays in the

In 1992, former NFL football player Roy Simmons came
out on the Phil Donohue Show.

In 1993, former MLB baseball player, outfielder Glenn
Burke came out. While still playing, fans in the outfield
would taunt him and call him, “fag.” (On a separate note,
some people credit him with creating the “high-five.”)

In 1994, Olympic diver Greg Louganis officially came out.
Louganis competed in the 1988 Olympic Games and won
gold, despite testing positive for HIV weeks prior to the

In 1998, Justin Fashanu, an openly gay soccer player,
committed suicide. After he came out in 1990, at the
height of his career, no soccer club offered him a contract,
and when he did compete, he often was the target of
abuse from fans.

In 1999, Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker, in
response to a question regarding how he would feel
about playing for a New York team, stated, “I would retire
first. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark,
looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut, next to some kid
with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS…”

In 1999, female tennis player Amelie Mauresmo came
out. Thereafter, fellow tennis players Lindsay Davenport
and Martina Hingis made controversial comments
regarding Mauresmo. After playing Mauresmo, Davenport
stated, “A couple of times, I thought I was playing a guy
out there: The girl is hitting so hard, so strong.” Davenport
claimed her comments were innocent and sent a
heartfelt apology to Mauresmo. Hingis insultingly said of
Mauresmo that she was “half-man” because she had a

In 1999, former MLB player Billy Bean came out


In 2000, The New York Times and a New England
based newspaper, Bay Windows, printed an encouraging
story about Corey Johnson, a high school football player
who came out to his team, and his team fully supported

In 2002, former NFL football player Esera Tualo came
out and recounted the nasty, anti-gay comments he
heard in various locker-rooms including, “faggot,”
“queer,” and “fudge-packer.” Former Green Bay
Packers football player Sterling Sharpe stated that had
Tualo come out while still active then “he would have
been eaten alive, and he would have been hated for
it. Had he come out on a Monday, with Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday practice, he’d have never gotten to the
other team.”

In 2002, then New York Giants tight end Jeremy
Shockey stated he would not want a gay teammate
because he did not how “it would work” to have a gay
teammate in the shower. Shockey has since stated he
regretted making this comment.

In 2003, Shockey allegedly called then Dallas Cowboys
coach Bill Parcells a “homo.”

In 2007, former NBA player John Amechi came out.
The reaction among active NBA players was mixed.
NBA player Grant Hill who was with the Orlando Magic
at the time, applauded Amechi’s decision to come out.
A Philadelphia Sixers forward, Shavlik Randolph, stated,
“As long as you don’t bring your gayness on me I’m fine,
but I think it would create a little awkwardness in the
locker room.”

In 2007, Penn State finally fired women’s basketball
coach Rene Portland, who during her 27 years as coach
of Penn State had a rule: No Lesbians Allowed. If Ms.
Portland “discovered” she had a lesbian on her team,
she effectively ended that player’s college career and/
or future in sports, whether in coaching, playing in the
Olympics, etc. The controversy surrounding Ms. Portland
is chronicled in one the sports documentary Training

In 2007, Toronto Maple Leaf coach Brain Burke’s
son, Brendan Burke, who had hoped to have a career
in the NHL, came out at the age of 19 to his father.
In response, Brian Burke fully supported his son and
attended Toronto’s gay pride with him. The article
“We love you, this won’t change a thing,” by John
Buccigross, powerfully and beautifully chronicles
Brendan Burke coming out to his father. Tragically,
Brendan Burke died in a car accident in 2010.

In 2010, the Stanley Cup was featured at Chicago’s
Pride parade. Defense man Brent Sopel rode on a float
in honor of Brendan Burke. Said Sopel, “When Brendan
came out, Brian (his dad) stood by him, and his whole
family stood by him, like every family should. We teach
our kids about accepting everybody. Tolerate everybody;
understand where everyone is coming from.”

In 2011, the NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 dollars for
saying, “faggot,” sending a message that derogatory,
anti-gay slurs would not be tolerated. To Bryant’s credit,
he issued what would appear to be a sincere apology
and recorded an anti-bully PSA.


Tank Carder (Cleveland Browns Linebacker). Tweet: “I don’t agree with being gay or lesbian at all, but saying faggot doesn’t make me a homophobe. It’s just a word.” Later: “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

Brandon Spikes (New England Patriots Linebacker). Tweet: “I’m homophobic just like I’m arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders, but I’d still scream if I found one in my bathtub.” Later: “PEOPLE!!! It’s just a joke…seriously a JOKE!!! Chill out.”

Amar’e Stoudemire (New York Knicks). Tweet (to a fan): “F*ck you. I don’t have to do Anything, fag.” Later. “I’m sorry for what I said earlier. …No Excuses. Won’t happen again.”

Justin Fontaine (Minnesota Wild Prospect). Tweet (regarding the band, the Foo Fighters): “I disagree. The Foo Faggots were awful.” Later: The Wild suspended him for two games with minor league team.

In 2011, tough guy/agitator, NHL player Sean Avery came out in support of gay
marriage, and in doing so stated, “I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated,
and that applies to marriage: Committed couples should be able to marry the
person they love. Join me in supporting marriage equality.”

In 2011, NBA Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts came out with support
of NBA commissioner David Stern, WNBA president, Val Ackerman, and (at the
time) Suns guard Steve Nash.

In 2012, Kevin McClatchy, owner of the Pittsburgh (woohoo) Pirates from 1996
to 2007, came out, stating the “frequent homophobic slurs” he heard in baseball
circles had convinced him to keep his sexual orientation a secret. McClatchy hoped
that his coming out would promote dialogue.

In 2012, Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medal soccer player, officially came out.
Thereafter, when questioned about gays in sports, Rapinoe stated, “I feel like
sports, in general, are still homophobic in the sense that not a lot of people are
out. … In female sports, if you’re gay, most likely your team knows it pretty quickly.
It’s very open and widely supported. For males, it’s not that way at all. It’s sad.”
Rapinoe further stated that the response to her coming out had been positive.

In 2012, Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball player, Yunel Escobar, was suspended three
games for wearing a gay slur, written in Spanish, on the eye black tape that he was
wearing for the game.

In 2012, former football player Wade Davis came out. Davis stated he did not
come out while still actively playing because he feared “the impact it would have in
the locker room.”

In 2012, Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselback talked with fellow Titans
quarterbacks about whether they were aware of ever playing with an openly gay
football player, and none of them were. Hasselback stated, “The question did come
up, ‘Well, what about in the shower?’ And those are tricky, delicate issues. But
so are female reporters in the locker room. There’s rarely a clear, black-and-white
answer on a lot of tricky issues. But, I think, at least for the three quarterbacks in
our room, it was kind of a shrug — yeah, so what.”

In 2012, in response to the question of whether the locker room would be a more
uncomfortable place if a teammate were gay, Minnesota Viking punter Chris Kluwe
stated, “That assumes that the gay person in the locker room is going to find you
attractive, which I think is pretty narcissistic…”

In 2012, NFL players Chris Kluwe (Minnesota Vikings) and Brendan Ayanbadejo
(Baltimore Ravens) publically supported gay marriage.

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