Attending a sports game is often marketed as a family experience. The Toronto Blue Jays have previously used slogans such as, “stay up past your bedtime” and have promotions such as Junior Jays Saturday. In some aspects, yes, sports games are family-friendly events, but I believe the homophobic culture that surrounds sport is unacceptable, but easily fixed.
It isn’t uncommon to hear the casual fan react to a play with the automatic response of, “that was so gay” or attempt to get a player’s attention by screaming, “hey, Pedroia, you are such a fag”. These calls are unacceptable in any environment, whether it is family-friendly or slightly more explicit.
When recently cut, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo expressed that he had been in contact with up to four players who have expressed that they may become the first athletes to come out in a team sport. With marriage equality being a prevalent issue in America, the environment of sports is still an unfortunate breeding grounds for this hate speech.
With homosexuality’s place in competitive team sports inevitable, it is time for professional sports—specifically the athletes and fans—to embrace it.
This exposure to homosexuality in sports comes at a pertinent time in the MLB season. With Jackie Robinson Day around the corner, and the release of the biographical movie entitled 42, it is ridiculous to believe that intolerance like this still exists. Just as Robinson was no worse an athlete because of the colour of his skin, the first—and every subsequent—homosexual athlete will be no worse because of their sexual orientation.
Sports needs more role models like Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe in order to break the stereotype of homophobia in sports. Just like Robinson’s ascension to the top of the sport, it will take outside influences for a homosexual athlete to be accepted into professional sports.
Just as Robinson had Pee Wee Reese to support him through the hardships, it will be essential for athletes to support their potential future—or current—teammates to support each other in order for the culture of homophobia to change for good.
So next time you attend a game, think of the precedent that the drunk teenager beside you is setting when he calls Derek Jeter a faggot. Hopefully 60 years from now we will look back at professional sports and scold the bigot filled culture.