Many gay athletes in professional sports have felt the need to hide their sexual orientation from the public.
This is understandable, as this is private information to some individuals. On the other hand, it becomes an issue because this is part of who they are.
It is important to acknowledge the strides that have been made in creating positive change for the LGBTQ community.
Progress has undoubtedly been made, as same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, in addition to many accomplishments made throughout the years to help create same-sex equality.
However, the LGBTQ community has had its fair share of unwarranted hate and acts of violence thrust upon the community. It is clear why some athletes hesitate to fully come out as gay to the general public and more specifically their team.
This issue is mostly seen within the male sports community, rather than the female sports community which has made significantly more progress than the men. This is, of course, not without a slow and difficult road for female gay athletes to have the courage to stand up for who they are on the inside.
As of 2021, Carl Nassib has been the only active player in the entirety of the NFL to come out as gay to the public, according to NBC News.
There have been other NFL players who have publicly come out as gay, like Michael Sam and David Kopay, but they were faced with much scrutiny following their announcements. There are notable factors in why this situation occurs, mostly having to do with the prominent masculine culture that has been at the center of sports for decades, according to NPR.
When there is such a strong and sometimes unhealthy emphasis on masculinity in sports, it creates an environment that can be less welcoming to gay athletes. There is also the big fear of how the team of a gay athlete would react if they were to announce their sexual preference to them.
It can be a nerve wracking process, because the team becomes sort of a second family. Athletes become close with their teammates, sharing the victories and losses they experience together.
The sooner we eradicate the fear that situations like these will happen, the sooner we will be able to show future generations the progress that has been made in sports.
There may be aspiring gay athletes who want to some day play at a professional level.
They want to be included in a community in which they can show the passion and talent they possess for a certain sport.
Slowly but surely, there has been progress made for the rights and equality of the LGBTQ community. Specifically in sports, advancement can be made.
Gay athletes should never be afraid to share who they are, because who they are as athletes and individuals shines through on and off the field.