If sports are becoming more gay-friendly, how come players aren't coming out?

March 16, 2012

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Earlier this month, the National Hockey League released a public service announcement in support of LGBT rights. It aired during the equivalent of hockey's prime-time -- a New York Rangers/Boston Bruins game -- and was one of several that will feature over 30 NHL athletes as part of a campaign called "You Can Play." The project was founded by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, whose late brother Brendan Burke was the manager of a college hockey team, gay and out.

"The messages are very simple, yet meaningful," said Patrick Burke. "It's variations of the idea that all they care about is winning, all they care about is having the best teammates and it doesn't matter if the best teammate happens to be gay or straight."

But many feel the sport -- and sports in general -- have a long way to go in accepting gay athletes. Female athletes have had an easier time dealing with the stigma attached to being gay, says former #1 Grand Slam Tennis Champion Rennae Stubbs (now a commentator for ESPN), who will join us on Eight Forty-Eight today to talk about her experience. 

For some, there's also added pressure from the gay community, who want sports stars to come out, but who may not understand the environment thoroughly. That's a sentiment expressed by former major league baseball player Billy Bean, in his book Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball. Bean came out after retiring.

Stubbs and Bean will be joined by Bob Cook, a sports blogger for Forbes magazine, who help shed some light on the subject. To give you a peak at his thoughts: "I won’t spoil the whole segment, but the answer has to do, I think, with what players hear from day one in youth sports."