Out of the Closet and Into the Locker Room: The Business of Coming Out in the Pros

We had posted an interesting video about the relation of gays and major league sports. There have been a few articles about leagues and athletes supporting gay rights yet would homosexuality actually be embraced in the locker room. Today we found an article discussing the money that may could be made by having an athlete come forward as openly gay. Hit the jump to read and let us know if you think this may be true.

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According to Gallup, there could be 178 gay pro athletes currently playing. Any agent or manager could represent the one player about to make history. Any GM could be sitting on the biggest and best sports headlines in generations. From the Manti T’eo rumors to the gay storyline on USA’s Necessary Roughness to the recent controversy at the NFL Combine, gays have never had so much attention from sports radio personalities, including Dan Patrick and The Loose Cannons‘ Pat O’Brien and Steve Hartman. This week we are hearing whispers that the NHL has a current player who is ready to come out.

As I’ve previously written, America and pro sports are ready. Yes, an ideal player in the right environment will have it easier. But the NFL and the NFLPA continue to reinforce how supportive the institutions will be. Last week, upon hearing that Nick Kasa was asked about his sexual orientation at the combine, the league launched an investigation. The NFLPA president wrote an op-ed articulating his support for diversity in sports. Despite what naysayers argue — that a gay player won’t get drafted or risks getting cut — no pro team would knowingly invite the PR nightmare that would result from releasing a player upon his coming out. Beyond the political impact, in many markets a gay player will be a welcomed headline. From Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres to sports personalities like Jared Max or allies like Erin Andrews, the press will gush. What front-office staff doesn’t like good press? The locker room may be awkward, for a week or two. Former pitcher Mark Knudson and former quarterback Jim Miller say a team can’t handle it, but at 52 and 42 years old, respectively, could it be that they are decades out of touch?

The question is not how management or the team will handle it. The struggle belongs to the player, who must be personally ready and confident in this life-changing decision. He needs a strong support system to help absorb the reverberations that will come from an announcement this big. It will be emotionally jarring, even when everything goes perfectly. He must maintain a positive attitude. Just as Jackie Robinson moved forward with grace as he integrated Major League Baseball, the first openly gay pro athlete will need strength of character to rise above the insults. He’ll need to focus on the good that he is bringing to society and the inspiration that he’s providing to LGBT youth.

A strong “family” or personal board of advisors is critical. This includes his business team: a manager who is progressive and sees opportunities outside the box, a publicist who has expertise with the LGBT market, and friends from the LGBT community. This kitchen cabinet can offer advice, provide a shoulder to lean on and be a sounding board. By writing this, I am volunteering to field any phone call in confidence, anytime, for a player looking for friendly counsel. The paths to success, from the narrative to the timeline, will depend on the player, but he must be prepared and strategic now. Things are happening fast, and beyond social impact, real money is at stake.

“Show Me the Money”: The Power of the Pink Dollar

The Super Bowl’s first commercial break included an ad staring Glee‘s Naya Rivera, who plays a lesbian character on the show; an ad for Budweiser, one of the largest LGBT advertisers; and an ad for Audi with the tag line “Bravery. It’s What Defines Us.” The advertisers are ready for a gay pro athlete!

The ideal candidate may be an attractive and well-spoken player from a major market, with a few seasons under his belt and a Pro Bowl reputation. Though this player may have it easier, any seasoned professional with respect in the league, or any rookie who is energizing his team, would still make history and possibly make cash with the announcement. Chris Kluwe’s popularity exploded because of his LGBT advocacy. How many times has a punter been honored on Ellen? When the first openly gay player comes out, jerseys will

[Read the Full Article at Huffington Post]

RELATED ARTICLES: Perfect Strangers: Gay Rights and Major League Sports [VIDEO]

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