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In Sports, Coming Out Stories Leave No Lasting Impact

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I had to do a double take and make sure that National Coming Out Day was still October 11. With Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts, CNN news anchor Don Lemon and former Villanova men’s basketball player Will Sheridan announcing to the world that they’re gay over the last day, it really is a lot to take in. But in the end it doesn’t really make that much of an impact.

When any athlete or person associate with a sport comes out, there is the ubiquitous question asked by the media: Are we there yet? Are we there yet that a gay athlete is a non-issue? Are we there yet that society will accept a gay athlete? Are we there yet that teammates will have a gay athlete’s back?

I hate to rain down on the heterosexual-dominated media’s backslapping, but we’re not there, not by a long shot.

Sure we have made strides as a society. There is NBA on TNT analyst and former NBA player Charles Barkley going on the record advocating gay marriage. Even the outspoken New York Rangers and former Los Angeles Kings player Sean Avery recently shot an ad advocating marriage equality in New York.

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That’s well and good, but on the other side of the ledger there is North Carolina State basketball player C.J. Leslie tweeting that gays are, “sumthing that I would not wnt n my locker room.”

Of course there was Kobe Bryant’s infamous outburst captured by television cameras for the entire world to see last month.

All of the coming out stories we’ve had recently have been good in promoting discourse for a couple of days, selling a couple of books and allowing these newly-minted gay people to generate income on the speaking circuit. Frankly most people had to reach deep down in their memory vaults to remember who these former athletes were. There was no indelible mark left by these former athletes coming out, just a ripple in the pond.

There is only one way things will change for the better: an athlete the caliber of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter or Manny Pacquiao has to come out. Until then we will continue to have families like mine that are not accepting of their children, entire communities and religions ready to ostracize and troubled kids offing themselves. We will still have athletes scream out “fucking fag” in full view of cameras during a nationally televised basketball game.

Until then I will continue to hold out hope that things will change.