There was a time, not too long ago, when it was impossible for a male athlete to come out as gay in the midst of a professional career in team sports. That was a line that wasn't going to be broken. At the time, there was no Jackie Robinson of LGBT athletes in the team sports, or even in the macho driven world of individual sports for men. The female side of the ledger was a little different, golf, tennis, and WNBA players among others were out as either lesbian or bisexual. But men's sports was a closeted world, with only a handful coming out after their careers were over, confirming what we all knew. They were there, they were just invisible during their playing careers. They had to be.
That all seems to be changing, and with rapid speed. Outsports is an SB Nation blog dedicated to LGBT athletes. They've done unbelievable work in their field and have been referenced numerous times by many other sports publications when gay issues and sports intersect. So recently, when WWE wrestler Darren Young came out of the closet so casually to TMZ, it was definitely time for Outsports to go to work. What conclusion did they come to? That the sports world is OK with gays.
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 Reggie White has been replaced by Kurt Warner. Jeremy 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.
Outsports writer Cyd Zeigler isn't blind to the fact that coming out for these athletes is a difficult decision, that there will be pockets of homophobia, but still sees the landscape for LGBT athletes rapidly improving to the point where athletes should feel comfortable with coming out.
When Darren Young came out, another SB Nation blog was also handed a story, that would be our professional wrestling blog Cageside Seats. They noted two facts, the overwhelming support Young received from his colleagues in the industry, and how far professional wrestling has come after some previous attempts at dealing with gay wrestlers.
A professional wrestler at the top his game coming out as gay was another important story for the nexus of sports and LGBT athletes. These will be remembered as the years that society and sports reversed a long trend of discrimination. So thanks to Outsports for covering these issues for SB Nation, they are the authority when it comes to this and we are proud they are part of the SB Nation/Vox Media network. And Cageside Seats deserves equal recognition here for taking a look at the current news, and delving into the history behind why it was so important.