So the big sports news today is that a former NBA player has acknowledged that he’s gay:
Amaechi becomes first NBA player to come out
By Chris Sheridan
In a groundbreaking revelation that began to reverberate around the NBA on Wednesday, former player John Amaechi has become the first professional basketball player to openly identify himself as a homosexual.
Amaechi, who played at Penn State and spent five seasons in the NBA with Orlando, Utah and Cleveland, comes out in an upcoming book entitled “Man in the Middle” to be released later this month by ESPN Books (owned by the Walt Disney Company, parent company of ESPN). (Story.)
Amaechi certainly isn’t the world’s only gay athlete, but he’s one of very few to come out. The ESPN article notes most of the rest: “Former NFL running back David Kopay came out in 1977; offensive lineman Roy Simmons and defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo came out more recently. Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s, and Billy Bean, a utility player in the 1980s and 1990s, have also come out. Former major-league umpire Dave Pallone has also said he is gay.”
On his radio show today, Jim Rome said that the sports establishment just isn’t ready for an out current player yet. He said it’s a shame, but that’s still where the sports culture is. I suspect he’s right. He also said the only way it could happen right now would be if the guy coming out were such an important star that his team couldn’t do without him, and honestly, I imagine even that would be a borderline situation.
But we know there are gay players, right? Let’s do some math. Estimates for how many gays there are in the US vary wildly, but it looks like the most reliable number for men is in the 2.8% range. So let’s take that as our working estimate.
There are 32 NFL teams, and each carries around 60 players. So that’s 1920.
30 NBA teams, 12-man rosters: 360 players.
There are 30 Major League Baseball franchises (if you count the Colorado Rockies) and they have 25-man rosters for the bulk of the season. So that’s 750.
NHL teams dress a 20-man rosters for each game, and there are 30 teams, so that’s another 600.
Note: I’m being conservative here. If you factor in practice squads, injury lists, minor league call-ups and the like these numbers get significantly larger. But for the sake of discussion, let’s just stick with active roster numbers and see what happens.
By my math, this means we can expect the following to be about right:
- NFL: 54 gay players
- NBA: 10 gay players
- MLB: 21 gay players
- NHL: 17 gay players
- Total in “Big 4” American sports leagues: 102 active gay players
Wow. That’s a pretty big number when viewed from a media controversy perspective, and it leads me to wonder things like who will be the first big current athlete outing and how long will it be before having out gays on the team is no big deal.
I got no idea, and I don’t think there’s anything about a scrub who averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 boards for three teams in five years that’s going to have a significant impact on our march toward the inevitable.
Still, it’s the sort of thing that maybe sends a chill through pro locker rooms. Note to our big-time jocks – like it or not, you’re showering with the very thing that scares you the worst, and you’re not even bright enough to know it.
The next few years are going to be entertaining….