As Brittney Griner Comes Out, is a Male Athlete Far Behind?

posted by Sarah Hallett, a Women Talk Sports blogger
Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 1:18pm EDT

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Considering that the past week was overshadowed with the horrific news regarding the bombing at the Boston marathon, sports understandably took a back seat. Yet in the middle of all the chaos coming out of Boston the WNBA draft took place as scheduled and not surprisingly Baylor superstar Brittney Griner was taken as the number one pick to the Phoenix Mercury.

What was a little more surprising was the interview that Griner gave to Maggie Gray of SI.com a few days after the draft in which Griner stated that she was in fact gay and guess what it-it's not really a big deal.

Gray was interviewing the top three picks in the WNBA draft, which included Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins. The question that was broached to the trio was regarding the issue of sexuality in sports and why it would be such a big deal if a prominent male athlete declared that he was gay. 

"I really couldn't give an answer on why that's so different" Griner responded. "Being one that's out, it's just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don't worry about what other people are going to say, because they're always going to say something, but, if you're just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don't hide who you really are."

Griner also talked about whether being in the limelight had any affect on her decision to be open about her sexuality.

"It really wasn't too difficult, I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that. I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn't hard at all. If I can show that I'm out and I'm fine and everything's OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way."

Griner will long be remembered as one of the greatest women's college basketball players of all time and although she isn't the first prominent female athlete to come out as gay, the ease at which she has done it is remarkable.

While there have been some male athletes that have come out after their careers are over, the majority of openly gay athletes tend to be women. No doubt the macho locker room culture that tends to be present in most male sports and the fear of being bullied by teammates and fans has kept more men from speaking openly about their sexuality. 

And considering that only nine states along with the District of Columbia currently support same-sex marriage, the country is still clearly slow to fully embracing homosexuality as a normal part of our society. The risk for an athlete to state that they are gay could also cause he or she to lose out on a lot of potential endorsements from companies that perhaps would rather distance themselves from the issue.

Robbie Rogers made news this past February when the former mid-fielder for the U.S. Men's national soccer team announced that he is gay. Rogers had recently been playing in England and also said that he was stepping away from soccer. Support so far has largely been positive for Rogers with many Major League Soccer players and fans calling for him to return to the game.  

Mike Magee a forward with the MLS team the L.A. Galaxy had this to say about the potential of Rogers returning to soccer here in the U.S and the reaction he would expect to see.

“I don't think it would ever be an issue [in American sport]. It's so accepted in the American culture. Put it this way: If he were to come into the locker room and somebody else treated him poorly, I think that guy would be the outcast more than the gay guy." 

There have been rumors circulating the past few months that a NFL player is thinking about coming out and Magee's optimism may then be put to the test. There would not be a bigger stage that a gay athlete could seek than with the most popular sport in the country. 

NFL player Scott Fujita echoed Magee's attitude in an interview he did with CBSSports.com regarding an NFL player coming out.

"I honestly think the players of the NFL have been ready for an openly gay player for quite some time now," Fujita stated. "Trust me, the coming out of a player would create much bigger waves outside the locker room than inside."

That obviously remains to be seen. Hopefully though as more prominent female athletes like Griner come out then maybe we will see it happen sooner rather than later. 

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