Recently (okay, not that recently, but throw me a bone here,) former NBA player John Amaechi came out of the closet. It was a big deal because he was the first NBA player to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality.
The response from the nation was widespread. Obviously, Tim Hardaway made the biggest splash with his quotes, including “I don’t think that’s right” and “I don’t really like gay people.”
While the condemnation of Hardaway’s comments were almost universal, the full context of his statement presents an interesting study.
He said, among other things, “I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room. Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that's upset and can't concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it's going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate."
While this could be dismissed as hateful, it does raise a point. Namely, how easy is it to build trust with a gay teammate?
Please don’t take the above question as anything homophobic. Allow me to explain.
One of the things being on a sports team requires is trust. Trust in your teammates, trust that they will help you on and off the court in a friendly way.
But what happens when you inject sexual tension into a situation that requires quick (if not instant) trust?
The simple matter is, there are no co-ed professional teams. In the modern sports world, no team is the same from year to year, and sometimes trust needs to be built rather quickly.
When you put someone who is homosexual into the equation, it brings an element that usually isn’t present. All of a sudden, you have a person that could possibly be attracted to another member of the team.
We all know about sexual tension. It takes a while to get over that and build a sense of trust with someone. Often times you only find that with one or two other humans. You don’t have the luxury of time when you are on a multimillion dollar payroll that is expected to win at all costs.
Imagine you knew a player on your team was gay. You are not gay, but you are showering, possibly even rooming with another man who may be attracted to you.
I’m not saying there is something wrong with the gay teammate, but it’s something that has to be considered.
It can be hard to build a level of trust with someone that may be attracted to you, especially if it’s not possible for you to reciprocate.
Please don’t take this article as any sort of endorsement of homophobia, or even of Hardaway’s comments (nor should you infer anything from the choice of Haradway's picture above, I had to pick something, and there are no John Amaechi pictures).
I’m just saying that the issue of gays in sports isn’t as clear cut as it might seem, and though the media would rush to condemn anyone who doesn’t feel anything other than instant acceptance, it’s simply not that easy.