Apr 18, 2012, 8:33 AM EDT
This comes up from time to time, and today it’s my friend Graham Womack who brings it up:
It’s one of the last remaining areas of bigotry in America, persecution of gays, and not surprisingly, baseball isn’t much evolved … With estimates that 10 percent of people are gay or lesbian, chances are good that a sport of 750 players (up to 1,200 after September call-ups) already has a gay All Star or two. I’ll celebrate when the day comes that he plays openly.
I’ll celebrate too, but I’m not exactly holding my breath, either, because as I’ve argued in the past (longtime readers will remember it, so feel free to skip to the next post), things other than bigotry prevent a ballplayer from coming out of the closet. Indeed, I think bigotry may not even be at the top of the list.
Yes, there will be idiots and bigots who say stupid hateful things if a player — let’s call him Johnny Robinson — comes out of the closet while on a major league roster.* Comments sections of blogs and other dark corners of the web will spew their usual garbage, but they’re gonna do that anyway. I’m more interested in what the public at large thinks, and I think the public at large will, on the surface anyway, be pretty accepting.
Why? Because — as I wrote a couple of years ago — there is an inverse relationship between the vehemence of anti-gay rhetoric and the specificity with which the gay target is identified. Bigoted jerks hate non-specific gay people to whom they can attribute the worst stereotypical behaviors and to whom they can ascribe an “agenda” with impunity. Put a name on the person, and the voices grow quieter (e.g. the gay neighbor down the street). Put a famous name on the person and they’re quieter still (e.g. the gay celebrity). Bigots are even more likely to accept gay family members. The point is that the more prominent any given gay person is, the less likely they are to receive an overt negative reaction. Mostly because bigots are cowards.
So if Johnny Robinson need not worry about overt public hatred and condemnation, why wouldn’t he come out? My guess: it would be a gigantic distraction and overall pain in the ass for him.
While the tone of the reaction would be generally OK, the volume of the reaction would be overwhelming. Johnny Robinson would have 100 interview requests on Day One. He’d immediately be descended upon by a million baseball writers and, way worse, a million non-baseball writers, all trying to talk to him. Since they couldn’t all be in the clubhouse, they’d have to set up special press conferences. That would take away from Johnny Robinson’s pregame or postgame routine and one thing ballplayers hate is to have their routines disrupted.
It would be even worse in the offseason. Being a pioneer is inspirational, but it’s also really hard on the schedule in the 21st century. There are a lot of dinners, photo ops, guest appearances on talk shows, meta/cute playing oneself on progressive sitcoms, parades to grand marshal and all of the rest. At what point does Robinson get to take that postseason vacation? When does he slip back into is offseason workout regimen? When does he get to spend some quiet time with his boyfriend who, by the way, is probably going to become a minor celebrity himself, which makes it all even more complicated.
I can’t imagine Robinson wouldn’t be utterly crushed by that, and because of it, I can’t imagine the player who would want to subject himself to it, even if it presented itself to him with open, loving and accepting arms as opposed to bigotry.
My guess: the first openly gay ballplayer will wait until retirement. Which, while not the most inspirational thing possible, is totally understandable because baseball is hard enough as it is.
*People always mention Glen Burke here, but whether he was truly out while playing in the late 70s is an open question. Teammates knew and ownership reportedly knew, but it wasn’t generally known by the public. Heck, it’s probably the case that most people had no idea who Glen Burke was at the time.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Burton had a 4.36 ERA and 46/25 K/BB ratio in 64 innings for the Twins last season.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Archer will be the first pitcher other than David Price or James Shields to start Opening Day for the Rays since 2007.
Mar 26, 2015, 2:51 PM EDT
The pitching is great and the offense should be better. But is better good enough?
Mar 26, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
“I’ve had enough of St. Louis.”
Mar 26, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
The Rays and Marlins have some challenges a lot of teams don’t.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT
We shouldn’t forget about the 28- and 29-year-olds getting sent down, too.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:33 PM EDT
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus all ranked Lindor as a top-10 overall prospect this year.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
Buck was trying to win a job with the Braves on a minor-league contract.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Saunders was acquired from the Mariners in exchange for J.A. Happ in December and will be the Blue Jays’ starting left fielder once he’s healthy.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
The country with the world’s highest murder rate is no longer a safe offseason home for many Venezuelan natives.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Delabar was an All-Star in 2013 and now he’s headed to the minors.
Shane Victorino lashes out at talk radio guys for blowing his Cole Hamels comments out of proportion
Mar 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
And, from what I can tell, he’s right to do so.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Presumably he’s done enough to get the job.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:32 AM EDT
Bonus: A-Rod talks like a scout, and sounds pretty convincing doing it!
Mar 26, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT
Our second favorite meme rides again!
Mar 26, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT
Alex Gordon still would’ve been out, by the way.
Mar 25, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT
Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was diagnosed with an oblique strain early last week, but it’s thought to be a fairly minor injury and he is expected to be ready for the beginning of the 2015 regular season.
Mar 25, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT
Chris Sale would have been Chicago’s Opening Day starter, but he’s expected to miss the first week of the season due to an avulsion fracture in his right foot.
Mar 25, 2015, 9:34 PM EDT
There’s been some controversy about this, but the Cardinals will go ahead with their plan …
Mar 25, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
The 22-year-old will take over as the Dodgers’ starting center fielder in 2015 after tallying 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 121 games last season at Triple-A. The hype machine is rolling.
- 2015 Preview: Seattle Mariners 3
- Cardinals add “OT” patch for Oscar Taveras 75
- 2015 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates 11
- 2015 Preview: San Diego Padres 22
- MLB is looking into some strange gambling tweets involving Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart 46
- 2015 Preview: New York Yankees 63
- 2015 Preview: Cleveland Indians 10
- Dodgers sign Cuban star Hector Olivera for $62.5 million 55
- College baseball player cut after making offensive tweet about Mo’ne Davis (115)
- Joe West ejects A.J. Pierzynski by calmly telling the Braves’ dugout “you need a new catcher.” (97)
- Mo’ne Davis says college ballplayer who wrote an offensive tweet about her deserves a second chance (87)
- Andrew McCutchen cut his hair for the first time in eight years (75)
- Cardinals add “OT” patch for Oscar Taveras (75)