Commentary: Can Homosexuality and Sports Really Mix?

While it’s perfectly okay to want to know athletes away from their sports, it’s not necessary to know every detail.

Posted: 05/19/2011 05:33 PM EDT
Can Homosexuality and Sports Really Mix?

There has been quite a bit of talk this week about homosexuality and sports – two entities that aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive but when mentioned together can bring about awkwardness.


Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts went public this week that he is gave and former Villanova starter invalid link: Sheridan says he is openly gay and was even during his playing days for the Wildcats. Now you have Sir Charles Barkley with the revelation that in his NBA days he has played with two or three gay teammates.


The first thought is why is this even a subject for discussion in 2011? But then it’s kind of interesting because it does bring about dialogue on a subject that isn’t always easy to dialogue about.


Personally, I wasn’t at all moved with the admissions of either Welts or Sheridan. Their lives. Their business.


But Barkley’s comments to radio station that were picked up by ESPN give pause.  Barkley says he doesn’t think he played with gay players and shared a locker room and possibly a shower with them, he knows he did for a fact. But Barkley goes on to say it wasn’t a big deal. He would rather play with a teammate who is gay and can play rather than a straight teammate who couldn’t play.


How big of Sir Charles. Whether the resident loud mouth on TNT and really all around good guy is really that open minded might be debatable, but it was still impressive to see him make that statement that says he judges from substance. Barkley comes across as a guys guy, a man who exudes macho all over the place. He seems like that kind of guy who makes it hard for any gay teammate to come out.


But Barkley says that is not him and we have to take him at his word.


"First of all, every player has played with gay guys," Barkley told 106.7 The Fan, adding that any player who says he hasn't is "a stone-freakin' idiot."


"It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say: 'Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.' First of all, quit telling me what I think. I'd rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can't play," Barkley said.


Unfortunately few others in those locker rooms have such an open mind, which likely makes impossible for gays to be open during their playing days. The ones who do come forth do so only after their playing days are done, like Sheridan.


There is a part of me that thinks that is wrong. Then there is a part of me that questions why sexuality is a topic for the locker room anyways. Never in my 20-year career as a sports journalist have I asked a straight athlete to discuss his heterosexuality. So why should I or any of my contemporaries question a guy athlete about his choices away from the playing field?


Most of us who have spent time covering the WNBA have a sense of what is predominantly happening in the stands and with many of the athletes on the floor. But it’s not about the sexual orientation of the athletes or the fans, it’s about the sport.


While it’s perfectly okay to want to know athletes away from their sports, it’s not necessary to know every detail.


Contact Terrance Harris at



(Photo: Andre Kosters/Landov)