Thursday, January 29, 2015

Three-Quarters of Americans Support Signing Professional Gay Athletes

By Anna Pulley
Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 10:42 AM

click to enlarge Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted in the NFL, is still in professional limbo. - MARCUS QWERTYUS/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • Marcus Qwertyus/Wikipedia Commons
  • Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted in the NFL, is still in professional limbo.

While we wait for professional sports teams to catch up to the year we're living in, a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute has found that a vast majority of Americans support the signing of gay and lesbian athletes.

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According to the study, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans said they would support a professional sports team signing a gay or lesbian athlete, while 19 percent said they were against it, perhaps not realizing that the two things HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ONE ANOTHER.

click to enlarge gay-lesbian-athlete-nfl-professional-sports-religion-2-640x383.jpg
Forgetting for a moment how gay professional sports already are (head-to-toe spandex, "tight ends," butt-slapping, etc.), even a majority of Republicans don't care if teh gheyz are signed (66 percent are in favor). Dems are 79 percent in favor, and Independents fall slightly behind them at 75 percent.

What about religious institutions, who famously oppose all things queer (until they are caught with their pants down in airport bathrooms)? From the survey: "A majority of all religious groups would support a professional sports team signing a gay or lesbian athlete. ... Roughly 8-in-10 white mainline Protestants (77 percent), Catholics (78 percent), minority Protestants (66 percent), and the religiously unaffiliated (84 percent) favor teams signing gay and lesbian athletes."

For women athletes, it's a slightly different arena. Because women who play sports (professional or otherwise) are often assumed gay until proven straight, and because women's sports are given less priority and media attention, women athletes who come out as queer are barely considered news. As Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones reminded us when NBA star Jason Collins was being celebrated as the "first openly gay athlete in professional North American team sports," LOTS of pro athletes had come out before him, including: tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, pro boxer Orlando Cruz, WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes (who later married a man), Brittney Griner and Chamique Holdsclaw, also WNBA, Megan Rapinoe of the US Women's National Soccer Team, Lori Lindsey, also USWNT in the 2012 Olympics, etc. (Speaking of, if we were to go into how gay the Olympics is, we'd be here all day.)

A majority of Americans also realized that queer athletes face a lot of discrimination in professional sports (56 percent). One sad example is the promising athlete Michael Sam, the first openly gay player taken in the NFL Draft, who later got booted by the Rams, and is still waiting for an active roster spot.

While sports fans are on the right side of history, here's hoping pro teams hurry up already and hop on the "it's not an issue" bandwagon when it comes to gay athletes. Either way, the PRRI study is something to mull over this Super Bowl Sunday, possibly as you watch Katy Perry during halftime, whom Out magazine named "Person of the Year" a while back. NO HOMO.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She tweets lesbian haiku.

H/T to Think Progress

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