The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Someone Has to Break the Barrier

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Would an openly gay player receive the same kind of cruel treatment that Jackie Robinson and his fellow pioneers suffered through from 1947 on? It's tough to say. I doubt the same kind of open prejudice would be encouraged, and that player would have advocacy groups to help and millions of people on his side, but Robinson was uniquely qualified to go through what he had to go through. Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey vetted Robinson thoroughly to make sure he had the strength and fortitude that few people of any race would have. He did, but most people who knew Robinson believed that the stress of those first three seasons, where he was forbidden to answer back in the face of any act against him, killed him in the end. There's only so much one person can take.

The players who followed Robinson -- Hank Aaron, Curt Flood, Bob Gibson and so many others -- have talked and written about what they went through. To think that American people would have to go through that garbage again is tough to deal with, but the world seems just as full of people who engage in unthinking prejudice as it is of people who are simply trying to escape that bigotry and live their lives without stigma or shame.

I'd like to believe that a player could enter the arena without fear of additional physical action being taken against him, or having to go through mental and spiritual abuse. I'd like to believe that anyone emboldened by that player's example would not suffer more subtle slings and arrows. But I've had enough gay friends in my life who have lived the good and bad to know better. You'll even see those who have benefited from other civil rights breakthroughs break ranks and condemn. That's the most shameful part.

Gay rights in sports will happen as they happen in life -- gradually, and not without considerable struggle, or the courage of the people who dare to be first.

By Doug Farrar  |  June 17, 2009; 10:53 AM ET  | Category:  Doug Farrar , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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For the reasons you've shared, this won't be a gradual transformation. One talented, Jackie Robinson-like hero will demand that we all respect him for who he is and suffer the slings and arrows. Then others will follow, or emerge from their silence.

BTW there are *multitudes* of deeply in-the-closet homosexuals in the NFL today, as there always have been. Over-the-top masculinity, muscularity, preening prima-donna behavior: you almost couldn't design a better homosexuality magnet than football. Only wrestling, mixed martial arts, and bodybuilding could compete as a gay attractor.

Posted by: EZE33 | June 17, 2009 3:56 PM

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