Lately, it seems that whenever the NBA is associated with anything related to LGBT news, it has to do with an unfortunate anti-gay slur (hello, Kobe Bryant), but just last week the league announced it would be adopting a new non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation. This means that even though gay folks aren’t protected federally (not to mention in many states) openly gay players can’t be cut just because of their sexual orientation.
No word if there’s a Kardashian clause (we kid).
In reality, the move is significant for the league as a way to protect gay players who may be considering coming out.
“Non-discrimination language was added into the agreement that protects players from discrimination, including based on sexual orientation,” says NBA Senior Vice President of Marketing Michael Bass.
The NFL, NHL, MLB and MLS have already added such protections with little or no fanfare. The HRC is also pushing for transgender guidelines, but so far no comment has been made about whether gender identity will eventually be covered by the policy.
The question of whether closeted gay players (we know they’re out there) will actually come out is also uncertain. But as more policies like these are adopted within the professional sports world, it certainly makes it easier to be more open and honest without fear of losing one’s job. Of course, this doesn’t mean stereotypes and backlash among fellow players won’t persist, as was the case with John Amaechi, a former Penn State player who only came out publicly after retiring from the NBA.
“If you look at our league,” said Amaechi after coming out years ago, “minorities aren’t very well represented. There’s hardly any Hispanic players, no Asian-Americans, so that there’s no gay players is no real surprise. It would be like an alien dropping down from space. There’d be fear, then panic. They just wouldn’t know how to handle it.”
He’s since softened up, saying things are better for gay athletes in the professional sports world, even if only a handful are actually out, like Esera Tualo, Roy Simmons, Dave Kopay, Glenn Burke and Billie Bean.
Recently, former NBA player Charles Barkley spoke up for gay rights, saying, “It shouldn’t be a big deal to anybody. I know I’ve played with gay players and against gay players and it just shouldn’t surprise anybody or be an issue.”
What do you think? Should professional athletes come out?