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Darren Young coming out again shows sports world is OK with gays

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The reaction has been positive for the openly gay wrestler, as it has been for every gay male athlete to come out before him

Darren Young came out to TMZ Aug. 14
Darren Young came out to TMZ Aug. 14
WWE

To some, World Wrestling Entertainment is perceived as a bygone institution with backward fans who think of issues in 1983 terms, not 2013. When superstar wrestler Darren Young earlier this week revealed he's gay, expectations for reaction could not have been lower.

But George "The Animal" Steel is long gone. Hulk Hogan is now, again, Terry Bollea. May Andre The Giant rest in peace.

The WWE has even renamed itself (it was formerly WWF) after a lawsuit filed in 2000 by the World Wildlife Federation.

Despite expectations, when the reaction to Young's coming out came down quickly from the WWE and its wrestlers, they couldn't have been more positive; The WWE's statement couldn't have been more clear:

WWE is proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar. On Thursday afternoon, in fact, Darren participated in one of our Be A STAR anti-bullying rallies in Los Angeles to teach children how to create positive environments for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Wrestlers like Triple H, John Cena, Brett Hart, Zack Ryder and many others all tweeted or shared support.

Young said he was "very surprised" by how positive the reactions have been.

It's the same surprise we hear over and over from athletes who come out.

Pro soccer player Robbie Rogers felt the reaction would be so bad to his coming out that he quit the game. Two months later, he returned to soccer having experienced nothing by overwhelming support for his public coming out.

Jason Collins had the same reaction. Forget about what the rest of the sports world would think, he was so concerned about what his brother, fellow NBA player Jarron, would think that he hid the secret from him as well. He too was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction. His brother stood by his side.

Like the WWE, the entire sports world looks different now. Reggie White has been replaced by Kurt WarnerJeremy Shockey is out, Rob Gronkowski is in. Are there whispers of homophobia? Sure. There are whispers of racism and sexism, too. That doesn't mean the whispers dominate the chorus.

It's not just the athletes who keep expecting the worst from sports. Yesterday I was asked by a reporter if an NFL player could come out publicly today and survive in the League.

Survive in the League? It's not even a question at this point. The vast majority of coaches, fans and players would have no issue with any gay athlete. And all of those who do have a "gay" issue would change their tune once a face is put to the label: Who's going to tell a current teammate they won't play with him anymore because he said he's gay? Yet the players and coaches point fingers at the fans for being homophobic, the fans point fingers at the players and coaches, and the closeted gay athletes stuck in the middle just keeping  hearing how homophobic everyone is in sports.

The reality for gay athletes is the support we've seen for Darren Young this week; and what we saw with Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers; and what we've seen fro the WNBA with Brittney Griner and Seimone Augustus;and what we saw with college athletes whose story we've shared, like Alan Gendreau and Jarred Kennedy-Loving and Devin Price; and what we've heard from high school athletes like Ezra Amacher and even Corey Johnson over a dozen years ago.

Athletes in every sport at every level are more accepted now than they have ever been. Homophobia in sports is on the run. The reaction to Young is just the latest example of many.

For more information on the movement to end anti-LGBT bias in sports, visit the Facebook page of the LGBT Sports Coalition.

Cyd Zeigler can be reached for speaking engagements through Campus Pride.