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Volume 72, Issue 101, Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Opinion

Athletes should sweat on court, not in closet 

Cheycara Latimer
Opinion Columnist

Professional athletes are human just like everyone else in the world. For the most part, their job is to entertain us with their talents on the field or court. If one is a devoted fan, he or she either watches game after game live at an arena or a stadium or at home on television. A fan follows every aspect of his or her favorite team or athlete.

Little do they know, some, if not a majority, of those athletes are struggling with the same personal problems we "regular people" do. Some have marital problems or extramarital affairs. Others have drug or alcohol addictions. Some recklessly squander their money away. 

However, some professional athletes are struggling with something deeper than the issues listed above. Some are struggling to come out of the closet, a closet that is sealed even more tightly for those in the four major male sports: football, basketball, baseball and hockey. 

Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis came out years ago and are still celebrated as great athletes in their respective sports. No one looks down on them for their sexuality. Yet, when athletes like John Amaechi, who played in the NBA for five seasons, come out of the closet, some people have a fit because they feel as if their masculinity is being threatened. 

For a male athlete to come out of the closet seems more catastrophic than the Yankees losing to the Red Sox, or worse, the Mets. But it should not be such a horrible, unspeakable thing. Being gay has nothing to do with playing a game and winning. 

Teams should concentrate on that instead of whether there is a gay man is among the ranks.

For a few athletes, it is no big deal. The Rockets' Tracy McGrady, who played with Amaechi in Orlando, told ESPN's Page 2, "I don't care what you are as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing on the court. You could be the most flaming (guy) on earth and answer to boyfriend and kiss him after the game, as long as you don't try it with me. I just want to win. And that's how I am. To each his own, be yourself, and be proud of it."

We fight our whole lives to be who we are and to go where we want to go. If we can't be honest with the people who are around us the most, then it will be difficult to be honest with ourselves.

For Amaechi, coming out probably wasn't the easiest thing to do, especially since he knew that there would be backlash coming from other players in the league. One such player who decided to publicly vocalize his viewpoint was Tim Hardaway. 

In a radio interview, Hardaway said, "You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States." 

With comments like this, it is no wonder that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people fear "coming out." The reactions of people like Hardaway could discourage even those who don't care about what others think.

However, no one is trying to question anything about another person. Coming out is about being free of fear, free of emotional turmoil and free of having to hide a person's true self. Athletes shouldn't have to fear doing so because of their profession.

Latimer, a communication/English post-baccalaureate student, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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