Discussion of equality for all in sports heats up

Published On June 6, 2013 | By Jill Saftel

A few days back, Roy Hibbert made an unfortunate comment during the Pacers’ postgame press conference in which he used the homophobic slur “no homo.” He apologized formally for the remark, but if that comment was a snowball, the topic of gay athletes has recently gained some extra traction and now looks about the size of a snowman.

Hibbert’s apology came via a statement through the Pacers’ organization:

“I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the postgame press conference after our victory over Miami Saturday night. They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views. I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television. I apologize to those who I have offended, to our fans and to the Pacers’ organization. I sincerely have deep regret over my choice of words last night.”

Equality in professional sports, and sports at every level, is always a hot button issue. But it seems like in the past week or so, the discussion has heated up. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck spoke out last weekend, saying he would have “absolutely no problem” with a gay teammate in his locker room.

“I hope if someone’s thinking about [coming out], that if they do come out as gay and it makes them happy and it makes their life easier, then I think they should do it,” Luck told CNN.

“It’s the 21st century, and I know I would have absolutely no problem with it,” he continued. “I hope no one would treat him any differently than any straight player, no special treatment-he’s just another guy.”

Then, somewhere in the middle of the debate, there’s the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson.

Peterson has said he is against gay marriage, but Monday he told The Oklahoman having a gay teammate “wouldn’t really bother me that much.”

“Simple things, as far as showers and things like that, you know, of course, anyone would be uncomfortable. But you know, I’m a grown man. There are things that I can deal with. I’m comfortable in my skin,” he said, via The Oklahoman.

“I’ll still high-five them. Pat them on the butt when he’s doing good, and go on about my business,” he continued.

Peterson’s responses sound extremely contradictory, probably stemming from the fact that he’s tip-toeing around being politically correct. No athlete wants to issue a formal apology and draw negative attention to themselves, but it’s clear there are still a lot of professionals in every league who aren’t accepting, whether they say it or not.

I don’t care who the athletes on my favorite teams date, and I think most sports fans would agree. Men, women, actors, singers…it doesn’t matter. My main concern is whether they’re catching the football, stopping the puck, cranking one out to center field and making their free throws. I’ll never be a man on a professional sports team, but if a teammate is going to help me win games, I can’t imagine his or her sexuality would take precedence over that talent.

Fans will stop caring about athletes’ sexuality when their teammates do. To steal a line from the You Can Play Project, it’s pretty simple: “If you can play, you can play.”

Let’s tally RBIs and touchdowns. When it comes down to it, dates and love lives are nowhere on the score sheet.

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.