Rick Welts, the CEO of the Phoenix Suns, came out publically saying he was gay in a lengthy Sunday New York Times piece. (Are there short Sunday New York Times pieces?)
That has restarted the discussion about gay athletes in professional sports, and how that will be received when an active player in one of the nation’s major team sports does come out.
“(Some in the media) make it sound like we’re animals, and if somebody came out as a gay player, then we would shun him or whatever. First of all, we only hate guys that can’t play…. And like I said, we all know it, we’ve all played with gay guys. Anybody who doesn’t think they’ve played with a gay guy is an idiot.”
So did Barkley ever play with gay players?
“Oh yeah, probably three or four guys that we all knew was gay. But there’s this taboo — and the thing that makes me laugh is society is more BS on homosexuality than players are. Like I say, there’s guys I played with that I knew were gay and it didn’t bother me at all.”
Barkley summed it up the same sentiments well with the Washington Post.
“First of all, every player has played with gay guys. It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.”
I wish it were that simple, but at the core I hope Barkley is right.
When a player does come out — and it’s a when, not an if — there will be bigots coming out of the woodwork to take shots. But for the most part, Barkley is right that if a guy is helping a team win, if he is a good teammate, the guys in his locker room won’t care much about anything else. Most NBA players are younger than 30, a generation that is more libertarian with their views — live and let live — than their parents or grandparents. Not all, but as a whole.
Most players would not really care. I think.