Every time Outsports shares the coming-out story of an LGBT athlete or coach we get one of two reactions from people. Our posting of Ryan O’Callaghan’s story this week was no different.
The vast majority — maybe 90% — understand the struggle and importance of the story and vocalize (or twitterize) their support. They retweet, share on Facebook and use words like “courage,” hashtagging their support with #inclusion, #lovewins and #betrue.
Yet one out of 20 has to come up with dismissive tweets like these (I’ve included the “parent tweet” as well; Peter King very much cares):
who cares---— Pedermaker's Eagles (@ChipKellysystem) June 21, 2017
We can do away with the "coming out" now, cant we? Pretty much no one cares if your Gay.— gtl (@Gtlevin619) June 21, 2017
It's 2017 no one cares anymore.— Sleeves (@DougieP2016) June 21, 2017
Even if it’s just 10% of the reactions, it’s a significant number of people hoping to push conversations of LGBT athletes and coaches out of sports.
These people try to look like they are so supportive of LGBT people that they are beyond coming-out stories. Yet they are largely wolves in sheep’s clothing, people who care very much that coming-out stories are being told and they want to stop them.
There seem to be two forces driving the majority of people in this minority of reactions.
The first is simple, outright homophobia. Some people don’t want to acknowledge the very existence of LGBT people, so they claim that it’s not news hoping to bury what the other 90% of the people consider to be news.
Then there are other people who want their sports to be just about X’s and O’s, scores and anything that happens on the field. Issues like domestic violence, National Anthems and sexual orientation get in the way of the “escape” they claim sports to be. My guess is these people are mostly straight, white, cisgender men who have little time for conversations about people who aren’t like them.
Regardless of the motivation, this minority of people feels the need to take to social media and Internet comments belittling the importance of stories that the vast majority of people find fascinating or inspiring.
It’s an odd psychology to me. O’Callaghan’s story was picked up by Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, Yahoo! Sports, Deadspin, Huffington Post, SB Nation, The Washington Post, Bleacher Report, The Guardian, USA Today, Sporting News, Newsday, The Daily Mail, The Boston Globe, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, copious local newspapers and Web sites and even Breitbart. To name a few.
Yet a group of tweeters sitting behind their keyboards want to claim it’s not news or that nobody cares. Every time an athlete shares an intimate story about their sexual orientation, it’s met with a light flurry of “who cares” messages.
Given the list of media outlets who cover stories like O’Callaghan’s with fervor, and the overwhelming number of people sharing the story on Facebook and Twitter... you could have fooled me that “no one cares.”
Note that it’s never (or almost never — I suppose there are a handful) LGBT people themselves complaining that we’re talking about gay people in sports. They, for the most part, get it.
LGBT suicide rates are still astronomically high (not that you need more than zero to take action). Much of that comes from societal pressures to be straight and the lack of role models for LGBT youth. Every person who comes out — including a big, strong offensive tackle like Ryan O’Callaghan — has the potential to connect with a struggling youth who has been contemplating ending their life.
People saying “who cares” when an athlete comes out demonstrate a complete failure to empathize with those LGBT people who have been yearning for someone to look up to and who care very much. Until there are several out gay athletes in the Big Five sports leagues and LGBT youth stop taking their lives, many, many people will care.
As well they should.