It’s almost become comical to write these stories. Acceptance of gay athletes has reached the point where it has to be assumed that any athlete coming out to his teammates and coaches is going to be accepted and supported.
Yet because of the messages we consciously and subconsciously send to youth, they continue to be afraid of simply saying the words “I’m gay” to their teammates.
Dylan Baker, a football player and track and field athlete at Inglemoor High School in Seattle, Wash., was very afraid when he posted a Facebook message on National Coming Out Day saying he’s gay.
“I was terrified,” Baker told Outsports. “I read over the caption probably 50 times and kept thinking to myself that I should just wait longer until I'm out of the house or in college.”
He didn’t wait.
The response from people on the football and track teams, of course, must have been awful, right? I mean, athletes — particularly football players — are just so terrible with gay issues, yeah?
Absolutely not. No. Stop it.
“My football and track teammates have told me that they have nothing but love and respect for me. I had so many of them come up to me at school today and give me a hug and tell me how strong and courageous I am for doing that.”
Let’s repeat: “My football teammates told me they have nothing but love and respect for me.”
Football. American football. Period.
Surely his coaches — of an older generation — showed Baker some kind of disrespect.
“My main coach, Scott, told me from day one that he'd have my back and that I will always be a part of the "hurdle squad,’” Baker said. “He is probably the most accepting person I've told.”
In fact, he hasn’t received a single negative response. Not one. Zero. Zip.
Why, just look at the absolutely horrible messages he received on Facebook...
Sports — from diving to football, cross-country to soccer — can no longer be assumed to be homophobic. Finding acceptance in high school or college sports cannot be assumed to be tough.
Many people still cling to the backward notion that sports as an institution needs to be “fixed.” It doesn’t. Certainly there continue to be issues. But LGBT athletes should no longer live under the assumption of fear. Baker and countless other LGBT athletes in high school, college and pro sports have come out to the warm embrace of teammates.
The aftermath of Baker’s very public revelation was, well, kind of... ho-hum...
“Going to school today was unusually normal,” he said. “I had only a couple people bring it up and they were just asking me questions like how long I've known, how my parents have handled it, etc.... Everyone acted like nothing had changed at all and it was amazing.”
We’re so proud of Baker for finding the courage to come out despite the fear.