Earlier this week, UCLA released it’s “You Can Play Project” video encouraging homosexual athletes in collegiate sports to be comfortable coming out, and football coach Jim Mora was candid about his support for a gay player or coach joining his program.
However, not everyone in college football is as open-minded as Mora.
The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, talked to several LSU football players and asked their thoughts about having a gay teammate. The responses, as one could imagine, were diverse.
“Football is supposed to be this violent sport — this aggressive sport that grown men are supposed to play,” senior running back Alfred Blue told the paper. “Ain’t no little boys out here between them lines. So if you gay, we look at you as a sissy. You know? Like, how you going to say you can do what we do and you want a man?”
It’s all-too-common attitudes like Blue’s that have likely prevented the first FBS player to come out while still in school. The air of machismo in the college football locker room is heavy and cutting through that is no small task.
Even coach Les Miles said he’d have to weigh the feelings of the rest of his locker room before accepting a gay player on his team.
“I would handle it as what’s important and what’s best for the team,” Miles told the paper. “I would treat him, and expect his teammates to treat him, in an appropriate and straightforward manner. ... It would have to be something that I took to an office and kind of describe how I saw locker rooms and how I saw travel and how I saw staying in hotel rooms and how I saw those things. If that’s not an issue, I think things could be resolved.”
When some athletes and coaches broach this subject, there’s almost a ridiculousness and naïveté about it. Just because a player is gay does not mean he wants to sleep with all of his teammates or is checking out guys in the shower. And staying in the same room with a gay teammate doesn’t automatically he might try something in the middle of the night.
It’s those notions as well as the casual jokes and comments many make about homosexuality that have really hampered the progress of players coming out. Jamie Kuntz, who was dismissed from the North Dakota State College of Science last September following an incident that included teammates seeing him kiss his boyfriend, said he never felt comfortable coming out at school.
“Like every day since the first day I got [to North Dakota State College of Science], there was at least 20-50 gay jokes or gay comments every day and it all made me uncomfortable,” Kuntz told Yahoo! Sports last year. “So, I felt like I’d just cover up the whole time.
“It wasn’t just the locker room, it was like everywhere we went there was always someone like, ‘Oh, that’s gay’ or ‘You’re gay.’ There was always something going on.”
LSU junior kicker James Hairston told The Daily Reveille teams needs to start discussing the possibilities of having a gay teammate and start educating players about having one in the locker room.
“I believe that this is an important issue, one that does need to come to the forefront, that does need to be talked about,” Hairston said. “But I think the main thing is people can learn as fans, as athletes, as just people in general, just respect one another and it ends at that.”
Still, some would rather have no feelings on the matter at all and instead treat a homosexual in the locker room as a business associate rather than a buddy.
“College football is a business and you have to conduct yourself in a manner where you respect everyone you deal with,” sophomore offensive lineman Trai Turner said. “I feel like if the person is gay, he must still conduct himself in the manner of a football player, and if a person isn’t gay, he must still look at the person who views himself as gay, or says he is gay, as his teammate.”
Not exactly a warm welcome to the locker room, but a similar attitude to the ones many in the NFL have taken. As the “You Can Play Project” videos clearly state, “If you can play, you can play.” That’s all that should matter and players, especially those who share Blue’s opinion, should be educated as such.
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