ESPN The Magazine interviewed 143 Major League Baseball players on a variety of subjects, including PED use, most overrated and underrated players, and this question on gay players:
Do you agree or disagree with [Yankees manager] Joe Girardi that MLB is ready for an openly gay player?
NL All-Star: "We come in here and we're all trying to do the same thing. Who cares what a guy does in his own time?"
NL infielder: "Are there people who are going to give a guy a hard time? Yeah, but not too many. There will be a couple of jerks. But the majority of people are going to be like, 'So what?'"
In the poll, 81% of the players said they agreed with Girardi. This is not a scientific survey but does represent about 20% of players in the league so it's a healthy sample.
I am heartened by these results since Major League Baseball has seemed behind on visible support for gay players. Teams have had gay days as marketing tools for more than a decade, but the sport has not had anyone as visible as a Jason Collins or Michael Sam driving the debate as has been the case in the NBA and NFL.
Yet, when Sam came out last month in anticipation of being drafted by the NFL, Fox Sports asked seven Major League Baseball executives if they would draft an openly gay baseball player if he fit their on-field needs and all seven went on the record saying yes. I especially liked the answer provided by Chicago White Sox President Ken Williams:
"Are you, as a leader of your organization, prepared to provide the young man the public and private support he will need along with controlling, to the extent you can, what the behavior is in the clubhouse/locker room?" Williams asked.
"If the answer is yes, then you have an opportunity to use what some see as a distraction and use it as an individual and team character-building opportunity along the lines of what Branch Rickey did for Jackie Robinson.
"If the answer is no, then it is unfair to select him because like it or not, this will be a daily media/fan event and will need to be managed to keep everyone's focus on the job at hand."
We keep hearing daily from team executives and players in major pro team sports that their sport is ready, so all we need now are more people like Collins and Sam to stand up and be counted.