Mac Engel

SCOTUS can’t alter homophobic culture prevailing in sports

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week legalizing gay marriage ignited strong reactions in the country, but not so much in the world of sports.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week legalizing gay marriage ignited strong reactions in the country, but not so much in the world of sports. AP

The Supreme Court’s latest jump into shaping public policy (which — wink, wink — it doesn’t “want to do”) with its rainbow-colored landmark ruling should have no bearing on any sporting event ever.

SCOTUS’ recent 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage set off the expected celebration and rancor down blue and red lines. Meanwhile, “family attorneys,” resort executives and wedding planners threw their own gay-pride parades at the thought of the inevitable spending spree from newly legalized nuptials right down to the even-pricier divorce.

Equality scoring a win is never a bad thing, and at its core that is what this decision is.

So much partying, and hatred, last week and there was so little said by our little self-important world of sports. The prominent sports members who said much of anything were tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and former NBA player Jason Collins — all of whom are gay.

These days, every prominent athlete prefers to earn their degree in Saying Nothing to Offend Potential Sponsors from the Tiger Woods College at Michael Jordan University.

As equality spreads, there is one last holdout — sports. We are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. When it comes to fighting inequality based on race, sports is an innovator and a leader for society. When it comes fighting for equality based on sexuality, sports has not made the same impact despite possessing the same potential.

Sports very much remains in favor of the antiquated don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy when it comes to homosexuality. Machismo still rules in a locker room or clubhouse.

It is true that, to an increasing number of Americans, the subject of homosexuality is not that divisive; the younger generations simply don’t care, and do not see gay marriage as an indictment on society or the sign of an immoral America...however randomly that is defined.

Personally, I don’t. We are all in some way a part of life’s hypocrisy party; it is simply a matter of whether we are bringing the cake, balloons or booze to the celebration of double standards.

I also firmly believe that sports says the right thing while doing nothing other than paying lip service to popular public sentiment. An athlete comes out, a press release is issued supporting “his courage,” and then nothing happens. Or the reverse happens.

Since the likes of Jason Collins and most recently football player Michael Sam came out, very few have followed their lead. So we are to believe that’s it? They’re the only ones? We are to believe the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL have zero gay players?

Sam calls himself an NFL player, but he never made it. He’s with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, but his stay there has been tenuous.

Even if you do, and should, dispute the accuracy of the number of gay people living in America today, we should all believe that the number is bigger than what we see today in big-time sports. Zero is a hard number to fathom.

What we should believe is the reason athletes don’t come out in any of those leagues is as true today as it was 30 years ago: They’re scared. Despite “how far we’ve come,” they operate in a homophobic culture that bows at the alter of “hot” sexism, provided it’s dressed in sexy pumps with a short skirt, sleeveless blouse and ample display of cleavage.

Those in the closet saw the reactions to the announcements of Collins and Sam, and decided the best business decision was to say nothing and continue to live their lives in fear and, to a degree, shame. To so many, the closet is a better place to live. How truly sad and how very painful.

Despite the rulings of so many organizations — and now SCOTUS — baseball, football, basketball and hockey remain entrenched in their outdated world of masculine masculinity where anything other than chasing chicks and having side pieces isn’t regarded as kosher.

Players will say they would have no problem having an openly gay teammate, but clearly there is a disconnect between what is said and what is projected behind closed doors. There is a reason why a prominent athlete coming out remains a rare sight.

Sports is still run by a good ol’ boy network. You put enough of these guys in the same place, eventually the boardroom will sound like a locker room. The sexist, misogynistic and homophobic jokes will come out.

Maybe it is just a joke, but you better know your audience. Some things are funny, and some things are just plain mean.

What the Supreme Court ruled is that the institution of marriage should be open to all.

What big-time sports continues to rule is that not everything is open yet.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog