Why are there so few out LGBTQ+ Athletes? 


Hyper Heterosexism culture has stymied any potential movement for individuals to come out publicly. 

As 2018 begins, LGBTQ+ rights have never been so prominent. The clear majority of individuals are supportive and push for pro LGBTQ+ rights, with more and more individuals coming out without fear of being discriminated against. The same can not be said for professional male athletes. 

However, there was a wave of athletes that publicly came out between 2013 and 2014. This was the hopeful beginning of an avalanche of individuals to come out. 

Football Player Michael Sam, who was a star Defensive End for the Missouri Tigers in university, as well as the 2013 recipient for Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Sam came out publicly prior to his senior season, in 2013. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 National Football League Draft, yet has never played a snap in the NFL. 

National Basketball Association veteran big man Jason Collins was the first openly gay player to play in one of the four major professional leagues. He came out publicly at the end of the 2013-14 NBA season. Collins was drafted 18th overall in 2001, and played a total of 14 NBA seasons, retiring in 2014. As he stated in his first-person piece for Sports Illustrated “if I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I am raising my hand.” 

Robbie Rogers, whom is a former Major League Soccer player, came out as publicly gay in 2013. He also played professionally in England. 

After Jason Collins public announcement, Rogers believed that “a movement was coming.” 

However, since these athletes’ bravery, there have been no more athletes to come out publicly while playing. Three different sports, all with a cornerstone individual, yet unfortunately for Rogers, no movement has come. 

It has been approximated that one in ten people are gay. It is a seemingly mythological sentiment, because of a lack of proper research methods. Yet it is certain that there are athletes now who live in the closet whilst playing. It isn’t the case that LGBTQ+ identities are rising in prevalence, but rather a stymied culture within sports that inhibit one. 

With regards to homophobia, Wade Davis, a gay former NFL player, believes it isn’t unique within sports 

“I’m not saying it doesn’t exist in the sports world, but I think it is reinforced in the sports world, but you learn you can’t be out much sooner. When I realized I was gay in the 10th grade, I knew immediately what I was feeling was not OK, and that didn’t come from me playing little league football. It came from television. It came from everywhere.” It is not the homophobia that impacts people so much, but rather the blatant hyper heterosexism within locker rooms. Rampant dialogue concerning women and sex is paramount, and for gay athletes, it is something that they can not relate to. 

It seems that in female professional sport, there are more individuals whom are publicly out. Most notably the Women’s National Basketball Association. One can say that being heterosexual in the WNBA leads one to be made fun of, a complete role reversal of male athletics. The culture emanating from the WNBA is a parallel to the NBA, with women mirroring the men, whether that be through on court playing, or off court attitudes. However, it is certain that female athletic teams are more open to LGBTQ+ athletes. Brittney Griner and Megan Rapinoe are just some examples of these decorated gay athletes. 

Crucially, one’s sexual orientation should by no means play any role in an individual’s skill to play a sport. What is done in one’s private life is exactly that, private. Yet it is disheartening to hear that there has not been more movement within locker rooms to change the culture. These locker rooms are stuck in a 1960’s dialogue while the rest of society has grossly advanced LGBTQ+ rights.