HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel takes a look at why pro athletes aren't coming out of the closet in their latest episode, airing the next couple of weeks. One of the people highlighted in the piece is boxer Orlando Cruz, who came out publicly earlier this month and won his first match last week as an openly gay man. Said reporter Jon Frankel:
The question is, If Orlando Cruz can come out in the toughest sport around, when will a major American athlete join him? After all, people are out in the rest of society. There are gay characters on sitcoms, openly gay talk show hosts, gay anchormen, gay politicians and now even openly gay soldiers in the military. And earlier this year, event he President of the United States voiced his support for gay marriage.
The "when" question is impossible to quantify. If it happened next week, it wouldn't surprise me. If it didn't happen for another three years, that wouldn't surprise me either. These guys are so afraid of the unknown, they can't see what's right in front of them: That it's going to be just fine.
Three of us also interviewed in the piece -- ESPN's LZ Granderson, former NFL player Wade Davis and myself -- got into a discussion about one of Granderson's comments from the Real Sports segment: Is it fair to call big-time pro athletes who opt to stay in the closet "chicken"? Granderson and I feel it's not a bad term for guys who've made millions yet put their next million ahead of being a role model for closeted high school athletes struggling themselves. Davis feels you can't know what is going on in somebody's head or put your values on someone else, no matter how much money they've made.
Either way, the case is laid out throughout the piece that, as we've said on Outsports for years, the first openly gay pro athlete won't just be fine -- He'll become a better player and make more money because of it.
You can also see a Web-exclusive interview with Rick Welts, in which he talks about the "incredible support" he has received since coming out. Just like everyone else who's come out in pro sports.
Check out the piece and decide for yourself. The episode airs on HBO Friday, Oct. 26, at 7pm, on Sunday at 8am, and several times next week.