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74% Not Bothered by Gay Teammate

(This story was published in 2004).

Nearly three-quarters of Major League Baseball players surveyed said they wouldn’t be bothered by having a gay teammate, according to a poll by the Tribune newspapers.

Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Chicago Tribune among others, surveyed most of pro baseball’s 750 players on a variety of issues. Perhapsthe most surprisingly result, given the perceived homophobia in sports was this:

Would it bother you to have a gay teammate?
No comment - 11% (50 responses)
Yes - 15% (73)
No - 74% (353)
476 total responses

"I'm sure I've had one at some point," former New York Met and Yankee Robin Ventura said about playing with a gay teammate. He was echoed in these comments:

"I had one, Billy Bean, and I didn't have a problem with it," Texas Rangers pitcher Doug Brocail said. "Not at all. I've probably had one already," said Willie Harris of the Chicago White Sox.

The comments by the players also mirror those spoken by former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who said in 2002: “I think most clubhouses could handle it. They’re mature people who understand all the situations we live with in our society and this is obviously one of them. … It’s just time to catch up and I think it can be done seamlessly if it’s the right person or people. … Let’s get rid of the whispers and let’s be real about this. ... There will be some distractions and we'll have to get through with them.”

Salon’s terrific sports columnist King Kaufman had an interesting take: Those 74 percent said no to the question "Would you be bothered?" They didn't say yes to "Would you support, encourage and be a champion of?" And having one out of four colleagues "bothered" by your existence doesn't make it easy to go to work. But it doesn't make it impossible either.

This survey is positive and suggests that baseball may not be so hostile to a player who declares himself gay. It may ultimately depend on who they are and how they go about declaring their orientation. But Philadelphia Phillies manager Larry Bowa may have it right when he said: ''I'm sure it would depend on who the player was. If he hits .340, it probably would be easier than if he hits .220.''