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It's 2014. Gay people can legally marry in a third of US states, and same-sex unions are recognized in nearly half of European countries. With a few blips along the way, that number is rising. Political leaders and celebrities are coming out in greater numbers, and there's widespread outrage about Russia and Nigeria enacting harsh anti-gay laws. But here at home, there's still a space where coming out - or even being too vocal in your support - can end your career. Pro sports. .
A small handful of big league athletes have come out in the past few years. The NBA's Jason Collins and the NFL's Kwame Harris, for example. But, as is typical, their announcements came at the tail end of their careers, or after retirement.
Jason Collins remains without a team since his announcement. Is it because he's gay, or because he's 35 and his stats have been slipping for a few years? That's the question that every closeted gay athlete asks. In the high-pressure, big-money world of pro sports, careers often hang by a thread. Every player has to wonder if being gay might be enough to put him out of favor in the locker room. Coming out is risky, especially when you consider that it even seems like gay rights advocacy can get pro athletes in trouble.
Was NFL punter Chris Kluwe cut for underperforming, or - even partly - because he was a very public, very outspoken advocate for same-sex rights? The always-quotable Kluwe recently published an article titled "I Was An NFL Player Until I was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot", so you can guess what he believes. Kluwe says that he was told by his coach on the Minnesota Vikings that he needed to "keep quiet and stop speaking out on this stuff".
He alleges that his special-teams coordinator made vicious homophobic statements in meetings. The coaches deny the allegations, and the Vikings organization says they're investigating. But if it turns out to be true, it's further evidence that the locker room isn't a safe place to be openly gay.
And as long as that's the case, athletes will continue to stay closeted. There were rumors last year that a group of gay NFL players were going to come out. This didn't happen. It was probably still too risky. But it's what is needed. Once a handful of elite players too good to run off the team come out, things can start to change. At least that's my two cents. For Naked News, I'm Eila Adams.
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