There have been some interesting articles turning up some interesting facts in light of Jason Collins coming out.
For starters, he wasn’t the first. Glenn Burke was:
Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn’t write that in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused. In a bit of irony that would seem farcical if it wasn’t so tragic, one of the Dodgers who tried to talk Burke into getting “married,” was his manager, Tommy Lasorda, whose son Tom Jr. died from AIDS complications in 1991. To this day, Lasorda Sr. refuses to acknowledge his son’s homosexuality.
And then this one, about Vince Lombardi:
“My father was way ahead of his time,” Susan Lombardi said. “He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was.
Now *there’s* an argument for why I should be a Packers fan – if there is one. (Which there isn’t. But still, this one’s better than any. No one told me the famous Packers coach was born in Brooklyn, either. He was only about 15 years older than my dad, and got his start in the NFL working for the Giants.)
I love the way one person comes out and the whole thing pretty much implodes. It’s really, really great to see this happening in professional sports.
Of course the ladies – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – both came out in 1981.
(Sadly, in the meanwhile, LGBTQ allies Kluwe and Ayanbadejo have been sacked. So much for the NFL.)