Some great guests – including tennis legend Martina Navratilova — joined On Point today to talk about the NBA’s Jason Collins coming out as openly gay. Collins is now the first openly gay male active in a major American team sport.
Navratilova is the winner of 59 grand slam crowns, and a record nine Wimbledon singles championships. She came out in 1981, making her one of the first openly gay sports figures. On Point guest host Jane Clayson asked Navratilova about how being a gay athlete was different for men and women:
JANE CLAYSON: Is this at all different, Martina Navratilova for male athletes than for female athletes? Is there a culture within big game sports that makes being gay harder for a male than for a female athlete?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well I think a lot of straight girls don’t even go into sports because they don’t want to be bullied and be called a lesbian. It’s like if you’re an athlete woman out there, you have to prove your heterosexuality. For guys it’s the other way around. When you’re playing football it’s assumed you are straight because, of course, gay guys are sissies and they wouldn’t want to play football! And so it’s almost understood that of course you are straight because this is a macho sport.
But on the other hand to me, it would make it easier for me to come out because I am obviously so macho: I am playing football, so you have a problem with my sexuality? Really? Watch me tackle. Watch me run with the ball. So it’s funny that it’s taken this long.
But again for team sport athletes it’s much more difficult, because they could totally be blackballed out of the league.
We were also joined by openly gay journalist and commentator LZ Granderson, who used a personal story to reflect on the importance of athletes being able to be open about their sexual orientation:
LZ GRANDERSON: I’ll give you some full disclosure. I was approached by a closeted gay athlete – I’m gay. And this athlete was interested in dating me, and you know he was cool or whatever, but I said to him: was he willing to have me sit in the family and friends section of the arena? And was he willing to have me attend events with him as his date? Because if he wasn’t willing to do that, then I wasn’t willing be his boyfriend.
That’s not advertising one’s sexual orientation, that’s just being treated as a human being and as a loving couple and as an equal. So the fact that these individuals that are still closeted in the big four sports don’t feel comfortable bringing their loved ones to the family and friends section isn’t about advertising or shoving anything down anyone’s throat, it’s about being able to live like a whole human being like everyone else.
You don’t think you’re asking someone’s sexual orientation when you say things like, are you married? But you are. Because if they reveal the gender of the person that you are married to, you indirectly have asked that person’s sexual orientation. Just because you haven’t say the word “gay,” doesn’t mean you aren’t asking if they are.
You can listen here to the full hour.