AfterEllen: Brittney Griner is a star, a basketball phenom you can’t keep your eyes off of when she’s on the court. She was the first pick in the WNBA draft this week, going to the Phoenix Mercury, and making fans of the game psyched to see she’ll be coming to a city near them in the next season. Off the court, though, critics felt like they could discuss her bass-tinged voice, her androgynous appearance and other “masculine” factors they see in her mannerisms and use it to posit about her sexuality. Well Brittney has made it clear for anyone who cares: She’s gay.
Outsports: When Rick Welts, the former Phoenix Suns exec, came out as gay, Nike executives asked him to send a message to “anyone thinking about becoming the first openly gay athlete in major U.S. team sports — the company wants him as an endorser,” according to Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick, who talked to Welts, president of of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, this week.
“They made it clear to me Nike would embrace it,” Welts said. “The player who does it, they’re going to be amazed at the additional opportunities that are put on the table, not the ones that are taken off.”
In fact, several other sports sponsors and marketing strategists apparently agree with Welts. “We’ve passed the tipping point to where national advertisers are no longer afraid of the gay market,” said Mark Elderkin, Chief Executive Officer of the Gay Ad Network, told Bloomberg.
Bob Witeck, the gay marketing strategist, aggreed. He told Soshnick that the first openly gay team-sport athlete who is a major name will earn millions in endorsements and speaking engagements from companies who want to tap in to the U.S. LGBT buying power, which is estimated at $800 billion.
Jezebel: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban caused a bit of a stir on Tuesday night when he said that he had “no problem whatsoever” with allowing Baylor University centre and women’s college basketball’s all-time leading shot-blocker Brittney Griner a chance to try out for a spot on Dallas’ summer league team.
From ESPN Dallas/Ft. Worth:
“If she is the best on the board, I will take her,” Cuban said before the Mavs’ Tuesday night game against the Los Angeles Lakers. “I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”
“She’d still have to make the team,” Cuban said. “I’m not going to carry her just to carry her. I don’t think, anyways. But I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her the opportunity.”
For her part, Griner is totally game.
Outsports: A closeted gay player in the NFL is considering coming out publicly, sources tell CBS Sports.com NFL writer Mike Freeman. Here are the key paragraphs in Freeman’s piece:
Based on interviews over the past several weeks with current and former players, I’m told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months — and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career.
I’m told this player feels the time is now for someone to take this step — despite homophobic remarks from San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver and the controversy arising recently at the Indianapolis Scouting combine, when prospects were asked questions about their sexuality.
This player’s true concern, I’m told, is not the reaction inside an NFL locker room but outside of it. The player fears he will suffer serious harm from homophobic fans, and that is the only thing preventing him from coming out. My sources will not say who this alleged player is.
This is right now a rumor based on anonymous sources and Freeman does not know who this player is. What gives him credibility, though, is that 10 years ago he wrote a chapter in a book quoting a closeted NFL player. He also has written about the subject of gays in the NFL for years and was on a panel with Outsports to debate the pros and cons of a player coming out. So this is a subject he pays attention to, and I strongly doubt he is just making this up. That said, we have had these rumors crop up in various sports and they always wind up being false alarms.
I am surprised that this player fears fan reaction the most. There are always morons at sporting events, but my feeling is that any fan that is overtly homophobic will be shouted down not only by opposing fans but by those of his team who won’t like that kind of language being tossed around.
Assuming this player is correct that his team would accept him, I think the bigger obstacle might be the intense media scrutiny. This player will be labeled the “gay Jackie Robinson” (as flawed as that analogy is) and have to be able to focus while being asked for interviews and to do appearances for every LGBT group under the sun. Coming out in the off-season would be the right time to do it and allow the player to let the attention die down somewhat by the time the season starts.
Outsports: On the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on same-sex marriage, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has written a beautiful and powerful column for the New York Times on why gay marriage should be legal. Here are two paragraphs I especially like:
My belief is rooted in a childhood nurtured by a Christian message of love, compassion and acceptance. It’s grounded in the fact that I was adopted and know there are thousands of children institutionalized in various foster programs, in desperate need of permanent, safe and loving homes, but living in states that refuse to allow unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, to adopt because they consider them not fit to be parents.
Believe it or not, conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day. In many respects, the football locker room is a microcosm of society. While there is certainly an element of bravado in our sport, football players are not the meatheads many think we are. For some of my friends who raise personal objections to marriage equality, they still recognize the importance of being accepting. And many of them also recognize that regardless of what they choose to believe or practice at home or at their church, that doesn’t give them the right to discriminate. I am encouraged by how I’ve seen such conversations evolve.
There is much more to the column than those two paragraphs and it stands out as a wonderful affirmation of love, acceptance and humanity. Fujita is a an amazing person and a terrific advocate.