New York Rangers left winger Sean Avery and former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan have recently come out in support of gay marriage. Needless to say, they’re on a very short list of pro athletes who openly support gay rights.
Strahan’s former teammate, David Tyree, has gone on quite the crazyguy media tour as of late, and has become a sort of unofficial spokesman for athletes who oppose same sex marriage (despite not being that good at the sport he used to play).
In addition to saying that the legalization of same sex marriage would lead to “anarchy,” Tyree has invoked God and said he is “totally against homosexuality.” He also thinks that same sex marriage will lead to homosexuality being taught in public schools.
While his comments are inflammatory, they’re nothing new. I know it’s hard to believe, but athletes have actually been saying mean things about gay people for a really long time. And despite the fact that it feels like attitudes in locker rooms are shifting (and may have been for some time – shout out to Chuck Barkley), there is still a long way to go.
In the interest of reminding ourselves that sport is not yet the all-inclusive non-discriminatory equalizer that it sometimes pretends it is, we’ve compiled a list of derogatory or demeaning things athletes have said about gay people.
We’ll start with Tim Hardaway telling Dan Le Batard that he hates them in 2007.
Now, here’s Bernard Hopkins implying that the UFC is essentially just gay porn.
And no list like this would be complete without John Rocker. Here’s what the former Braves reliever said about New Yorkers in Sports Illustrated in 1999.
‘‘Imagine having to take the 7 train to (Shea Stadium in New York) looking like you’re (in) Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.’’
Then there’s former UFC champion Brock Lesnar just flat out proclaiming he wasn’t a fan of gay people, and then encouraging journalists to take note of it.
“I don’t like gays. Write that down in your little notebook. I don’t like gays.”
Carolina Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey stated in 2002 that he would have a problem playing alongside a gay teammate, apparently because his animal magnetism is too much for any gay dude to withstand.
“No, I mean, if I knew there was a gay guy on my college football team, I probably wouldn’t, you know, stand for it. … You know, I think, you know, they’re going to be in the shower with us and stuff, so I don’t think that’s gonna work. That’s not gonna work, you know?”
And much like Shockey, former NFL running back Garrison Hearst said that he wouldn’t want to play alongside a homosexual, only he chose a to utilize some more colorful language to illustrate his point.
“Aww, hell no! I don’t want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that’s a punk. I don’t want any faggots in this locker room.”
Even former MLB pitcher (and current TV analyst) John Smoltz, who’s generally thought of as well-spoken and reasonable, has said something ugly.
“What’s next? Marrying an animal?”
This isn’t meant to demonize athletes, or lump them together in one group of dumb jocks. As Barkley showed us earlier this year, many of them really don’t care who their teammates are banging, as long as they put up numbers.
But if you’re wondering why a gay professional athlete (a good gay professional athlete, who is playing in his prime) would never, ever come out of the closet: this is your answer. And it’s worth remembering, because the day that the smart voices drown out the dumb ones is when someone will feel comfortable enough (not totally comfortable, but comfortable enough) to take that huge leap. As you can see, we’re not quite there yet.