Your Sports Hero May Just Be Gay

Posted: July 15, 2011 in sports
Tags: , , , ,

NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin has come out publicly and said he’d support a gay athlete on a team in a major American sport. He says it’s really about equality. Good for Irvin.

Who isn’t for equality? Let me rephrase that: Shouldn’t everyone be for equality?

Irvin made his feelings known in story in a magazine for gays named “Out”. Irvin even appears shirtless on the cover.

I must confess my first reaction was: What is Irvin trying to sell?

Am I a cynic? Absolutely. Am I being fair to Irvin? We’ll see.

Irvin is one of the biggest self promoters in sports history. In fact, he probably should be the poster boy for “diva wide receivers”. No position, certainly none in football, produces more divas than wide receiver. Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders is the first football player who turned self promotion into an art form. He first did it at Florida State. Remember the all-white tux and the limo stunt he pulled as a Seminole? He became the ultimate showman during his NFL career. And, of course, he backed it up on the field.

Irvin’s showmanship started at Miami and he carried it to a new level during his career with the Dallas Cowboys, helping them win three Super Bowls. Unlike Sanders, however, Irvin drew as much attention to himself for bad behavior off the field. Problems with women and drugs kept Irvin in the headlines as much as his touchdown catches.

Thus I’m skeptical of Irvin’s motives.

He says he is a changed man. He says he has found the Lord. I’m pulling for him.

The reason he gives for coming out in support gays is a compelling story. Irvin’s brother, Vaughn, who died in 2006 at age 49, was gay. In the magazine story Irvin makes it clear he feels guilt for not supporting his brother during much of his adult life. Irvin even blames much of his bad behavior involving women for subconsciously trying to convince the world – and himself – that he wasn’t gay.

That’s much too deep for me to compute. I’m just a humble sportswriter who slept through most of my psychology classes in colleges.

Regardless of Irvin’s true intentions, his story is another step in the acceptance of gays in men’s sports, particularly big-time sports entertainment. Big-time sports entertainment – I’m talking NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, the PGA Tour and major-college football and basketball – is the last frontier where being openly gay remains taboo.

Would fans accept their heroes if they knew they were gay? Would they openly cheer for that bone-jarring, tackle-machine linebacker if he was gay? Would they love their gay quarterback even if he threw laser-like passes? How about the fearless NASCAR driver? Or the power-hitting first baseman?

The bigger question is would the athletes themselves accept gay teammates? Men’s athletics always has been a bit of a paradox. It is considered by millions of adoring fans the ultimate man’s world. It is where you find the strongest, most fearless, toughest, fastest, most bad-to-bone real men outside of our Armed Service. Men’s athletics also is the only activity where it is accepted as okay that these macho men grab one another, wrapped their bodies around one another, hug one another and shower together. Think about the simple center-quarterback exchange and how it would be perceived outside of football.

To my knowledge, no one has ever admitted to being gay while still an active participant in one of our major sports. That taboo will fall sooner than later. All the signs are there.

Let me make it perfectly clear I’m not being judgmental. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. But facts or facts and as a nation we continue to accept more and more changes, some good and some bad, I think. You have to decide for yourself. But in just the last 10 years those favoring, for example, legalizing marijuana has grown to at least 50 percent according to poll after poll. Another example is legalizing gay marriages. More and more states are making such unions legal. A decade ago no state would even consider such a thing.

So there’s every reason to believe one day soon an athlete will be brave enough to openly admit he’s gay. Women’s athletics went through this nearly 30 years ago, and it was a painful experience for those who first came out of the closet. Today few seem to care about a female athlete’s sexual orientation.

It will be even tougher on male gay athletes, and that, no doubt, is the reason done has done so yet. It seems every week that news breaks that another pro player has been fined for tossing out a gay slur. Irvin, for the record, says he has gotten mostly positive feedback from athletes on the magazine article.

Perhaps one day Irvin will be seen as a hero for something other than catching touchdown passes and getting his name on a police docket.

I’ll wait a while longer before believing that.


  1. charlie waters says:

    with all the other crap going on in pro sports, this is the best topic you could come up with? who gives a rat’s ass about what “orientation” an athlete is? i wouldn’t care if the jags were coached by elton john and their team colors were pink and purple with a pansy on the helmet, as long as they win. penning this seems more like a back-handed slap at michael irvin than a sports article.

    • lammatlarge says:

      Sorry to disappoint, but this is a HUGE story, and it transcends sports. Why not address it? Interestingly enough, you felt the need to add your own opinion. This was the best reply you could come up with? You waited for THIS post to make a comment? Hmmmmm…makes you wonder if this wasn’t so much a comment about the post as it is a back-handed slap at me.

      • charlie waters says:

        this is a “huge” story? by whose standards? and what does “Interestingly enough, you felt the need to add your own opinion.” mean? i could be wrong, but i thought the “comment section” was the designated place to voice your opinion. and that’s exactly what i did. interestingly enough, i waited for this post to reply because, most of the time, i agree with what you have to say. your paranoia concerning a “back-handed slap at you” is unwarranted and unfounded.

  2. charlie waters says:

    tell you what, i’ll just post my comments directly to fb. “awaiting moderation” smacks of censorship.

    • lammatlarge says:

      ??? Your comment has already been posted! We moderate our comments to avoid spam and gratuitous foul language.

      • charlie waters says:

        my comment wasn’t posted when i wrote the above reply. and to say you “moderate” your comments, still smacks of censorship, whatever the reason.

  3. ACE402 says:

    Have to agree with charliewaters, nothing but a slam on Irvin by the gator lover. Slow news day huh?

  4. Evolving is the key here. Even prominent sports figures like Michael Irvin can do some growing up, mentally speaking, and be accepting of people, without passing judgement based on old prejudices and stereotypes. He can even evolve to the point of supporting people different from himself. Bravo to him. Sports needs a hundred more people to come forward and make the same statement. Bravo to you, Lamm, for covering it.

    Unfortunately, as the comments here and on FB will probably prove, the one thing that will will never evolve is the Internet comment troll.

    Great thoughts.

    • charlie waters says:

      because someone disagrees with you makes them an “internet comment troll”? so, what’s your excuse? quit suckin’ up. it’s not very flattering to what little manhood you have.

      • You are a very small man, Charlie Waters, if your comment trolling has been reduced to estimating the size of my manhood. I happen to feel very strongly about this issue, which was the reason for my emphatic comment.

        Why don’t you try focusing your comments on the subject matter, and not the people sharing opinions, or the manner in which comments are handled on blog sites. Your act is getting old, here and on Facebook.

  5. Wyman Stewart says:

    Two things strike me why no Gay male athletes have come out of the closet. One, is fear of lost endorsements, which is a major consideration for many superstar athletes. Lesser athletes can’t risk losing the few endorsements they get, either. The second, is potential physical violence against Gay athletes, particularly in the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball, where it might be difficult to prove the violence was a deliberate act and an act specific to the individual being Gay. In the next ten years or less, I expect openly Gay athletes to transform sports in various ways, including the rules of the major sports.

    My opinion is there are very powerful political, business, and leadership groups / forces, dedicated to the Gaying of America and its sports, whether for better or worse. The topic is relevant and won’t go away. By observing the WNBA’s approach to this topic, might serve as a useful guide to what’s coming in other sports and what it means for fans. Michael Irvin and others are simply people, usually straight people, being used by the groups / forces mentioned to achieve their goals. I doubt David Lamm has written about this topic for the last time. In fact, I am glad to see David’s chosen to approach this topic as the major story it’s intended to be.

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