USA Today has a piece today that says Major League Baseball is ahead of the curve on LGBT equality, talking to some who think the league will be the first to have an out gay player. Some excerpts:
"I have great faith in the players, and I think baseball will be a leader on this issue; I really do," says Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations.
"Like in Jackie Robinson's case, if you're good enough, you're going to get accepted," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says. "How ready is the game? I don't know. ... But (the Dodgers) have a female trainer. I just think we're probably more ready than 10 years ago. And 10 years from now, we would probably be more ready then. It's going to keep evolving."
They also talked with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo about the culture in baseball:
"Honestly, I think it will happen in baseball sooner than in football or basketball," Ayanbadejo told USA TODAY Sports. "The reason I say that is because I think there is less of a connection to religion in baseball. The religious roots are a lot deeper in basketball and football. I could be wrong. But I just felt that they were a bit more open-minded."
It's funny, I've long thought baseball could pose some of the bigger challenges, much for the same reason Ayanbadejo thinks it would be easier: Religion. Many MLB players come from strongly Catholic cultures in the Caribbean, and some come from countries where homosexuality is still illegal.
Baseball players are also the least-educated, with many coming straight into baseball from high school. Going to college, be it for two or four years, opens eyes and changes hearts. Without that experience, baseball players are simply less exposed to gay people than their counterparts in other sports.
One quote summed up the dynamic we're dealing with in sports perfectly, and what continues to perpetuate this misguided mantra that sports are deeply homophobic:
"I think (being an openly gay player) would be extremely difficult because of the culture," says Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow, adding he would be fine with it. "Not that I think there's a lot of anti-gay sentiment around, it's just that masculine feel in the clubhouse."
Everyone says, "I'm OK with it, but the guy in the locker next to mine isn't."
That guy also says, "I'm OK with it, but the guy in the locker next to mine isn't."
The fact is, the vast majority of athletes and fans of every sport is just fine with an out athlete. We just keep throwing up reasons why he won't come out.
The piece also delved into the use of homophobic slurs in sports, talking with Yunel Escobar, who famously put a slur on his eye black, and You Can Play's Patrick Burke, who along with gay cross-country runner Jose Estevez spoke with Escobar last year.