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mutineer10 04-12-2005 08:52 PM

Poll shows mixed views on gays in sports
Hope this isn't too "political," but thought it might make for interesting debate (assuming it can remain civilized).



NEW YORK (AP) - A majority of Americans believe there is nothing wrong with openly gay male athletes participating in sports, but nearly 24 percent think an openly gay athlete would hurt their team, according to an NBC/USA Network poll.

The mixed results of the survey on American attitudes toward gay athletes appear in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands on Wednesday. Of the 979 people interviewed, 86 percent agreed it is OK for openly gay men to play sports, but some seemed to back off when asked if that could hurt their team.

"It was like, I'm OK with this, but if you press me, I have some doubts," said Doug Schoen, whose firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, conducted the poll.

The views of athletes also seem to be mixed when they are asked about the issue. When Esera Tuaolo came out after his NFL playing career ended, Sterling Sharpe said his former teammate was smart to hide his sexuality.

"Had he come out on a Monday, with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices, he'd have never gotten to the other team," Sharpe said.

But Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said he wouldn't have a problem accepting a gay teammate.

"Wouldn't bother me at all. If you can play, you can play," he said.

In another mixed result from the poll, 79 percent of respondents agreed Americans are more accepting of gays in sports today than they were 20 years ago. But 62 percent agreed the reason there is so little coverage of gays in sports is that America is not ready to accept gay athletes.

I guess the most expert witnesses on the subject would be professional athletes themselves, who (per the article) are as mixed as the general public seems to be.

I tend to agree with Sharpe on this one, in that I think an openly gay athlete could receive poor treatment from teammates, and therefore create an unfavorable locker room environment. Athletes involved in random discussion on 1280 AM in New Orleans (don't exactly know who they were ... someone named "Reggie" was one) seemed to agree.

From a personal standpoint, I don't see myself having a problem with it. I was never on a team with an openly gay athlete, but there were "rumors," as I'm sure is typical of most anyone's experiences in sports. I'm not naive enough to believe there aren't gay athletes in most every sport going right now, but I can't think of any who openly admit it (except maybe Greg Louganis, and seems like even he didn't "come out" until his career was over). I also know I played with enough guys who simply wouldn't accept it at all, thus the assumptions of poor treatment in the locker room.

Any opinions?

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