This is what happens when you get two people together to talk about something they really don't have a clue about. Fox host Tamara Holder and Montclair State Univ. professor Kelly Whiteside had a completely uneducated conversation about gay professional athletes, including Michael Sam and "Brittney Grimer," that continued to put forward stereotypical ideas that are false and keep athletes in the closet.
The conversation was part of Fox News' "Sports Court." This was some of the brilliant insight offered:
Whiteside: "Society is a lot further along than the sports world is."
Wrong. Whiteside specifically brings up same-sex marriage. In 2012, a study showed 61% of NFL players supported same-sex marriage. At the same time, only 50% of Americans supported marriage equality. 61% is greater than 50%. Math is hard.
Whiteside: "The NFL is not ready for an openly gay player in its locker room."
Wrong. Michael Sam was in the locker room of the St. Louis Rams for three months. Not a single player reacted badly. If anything, it was ESPN reporter Josina Anderson who had an issue and the Rams' Chris Long setting the record straight. Various players from the Houston Oilers of 20-plus years ago say they had at least two teammates whom they knew was gay, and it wasn't an issue. The majority of NFL players in polls over the last decade say they would have no problem. You could certainly point to this or that individual who may have an issue, but to say "the NFL is not ready" does a gross disservice to gay athletes and demonstrates a deep lack of understanding of the issues.
The very answer demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the issues. There is no such thing as "the NFL" on these issues, as the league is made up of many different roles. There is the league front office, the owners, the team front offices, the coaches, the players, the agents... to say "The NFL is not ready" is a blanket statement that doesn't reflect the opinions and beliefs of so many thousands of people, each with their own role in the process.
It also continues to deflect the issue from the board room to the locker room. It's the guys in suits with the issue, not the athletes. The athletes will make it work no matter who comes into the locker room.
Are there issues? Yes. But to say "the NFL isn't ready" is erroneous and, frankly, irrelevant: Social change happens whether people are "ready" or not.
Holder: "Michael Sam...what about the fact that he hasn't, as far as I know, come out in support of other gay players? Is there a message that's being sent?"
Huh? How about this video and this other video and this Sports Illustrated interview and this retweet. And on and on and on. The interviewer really should have said, "I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I'm just going to keep talking."
Whiteside: "It raises the question, should athletes, what do they have to gain and what do they have to lose by coming out? It doesn't seem like Michael Sam gained very much."
Whiteside was talking about the disappointment that Michael Sam never made it onto an active NFL roster (though he has said he is still trying). And it is a disappointment. Yet it fails to acknowledge all of the athletes who say their their biggest regret is that they didn't come out earlier because of how coming out freed them personally. Continuing this drumbeat of "everything that happens when athletes come out is bad" does an incredible disservice to closeted LGBT athletes and simply doesn't reflect reality.
Holder: "You have women, it seems like it doesn't affect them, professional athletes, as much. You have Amy Thorpe, Brittney Grimer, who else, Abby Wambach. ... It doesn't seem like there's a problem."
Ummmm... first she called MALE swimmer Ian Thorpe "Amy Thorpe" (I assume this was the mistake, since I have never heard of an LGBT athlete named "Amy Thorpe" and a Google search says "that person doesn't exist"). Then she referred to WNBA star "Brittney Grimer." Not sure you have to go much beyond that to understand where she was coming from.
But of course she went on to say that female LGBT athletes have no problem coming out.
Wrong. If there is no problem, why isn't there a single Division 1 NCAA women's basketball head or assistant coach who's publicly come out as lesbian (there are, sadly, no women who have been given the opportunity to coach men)? Why was there only one WNBA player who came out publicly in 2015? The fact is the problems are different for female LGBT athletes and coaches than their male counterparts. But Holder just continued the ill-informed "lesbians have no problems in sports" cliché.
Whiteside: "I remember when [Griner] publicly said that she's gay, there was a collective yawn. Nobody cares if women athletes come out."
Wrong. When Griner came out there was a ton of interest and media attention. It was less than the attention paid to Jason Collins' coming out just a couple weeks later because, yes, there are already more out lesbians in the WNBA than there are out gay men in the NBA. Plus, Collins' coming out was planned and scripted; Griner's was a blurted-out answer in an interview. Huge difference, though I'm not sure how coverage on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, CBS Sports, People magazine, Yahoo! Sports, Chicago Tribune, even the Daily Mail in London, is reflective of a "collective yawn," and it's sad to hear someone, particularly another woman, describe it as such.
To say "nobody cares if women athletes come out" continues the disgusting misdirection that nobody cares about women's sports. I know many women who care very much every time a woman comes out in sports. Every time someone comes out, it affects the lives of so many other people, inspires young girls to be more true to themselves. Sad to see those girls portrayed as "nobody."