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Media and the Coming Out of Gay Male Athletes in American Team Sports

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Andrew Billings and Leigh Moscowitz

Never before have we lived in a time in which sport and gay identity are more visible, discussed, debated—and even celebrated. However, in an era in which the sports closet is heralded as the last remaining stronghold of heterosexuality, the terrain for the gay athlete remains contradictory at best. Gay athletes in American team sports are thus living a paradox: told that sport represents the "final closet" in American culture while at the same time feeling ostracized, labeled a "distraction" for teams, dubbed locker room "problems," and experiencing careers which are halted or cut short altogether.

Media and the Coming Out of Gay Male Athletes in American Team Sports is the first of its kind, building upon the narratives of athletes and how their coming out experiences are shaped, transmitted and received through pervasive, powerful, albeit imperfect commercial media. Featuring in-depth interviews with out-athletes such as Jason Collins, Dave Kopay, Billy Bean and John Amaechi; media gatekeepers from outlets like ESPN and USA Today; and league representatives from Major League Baseball and the National Football League, this book explores one of the starkest juxtapositions in athletics: there are no active out players in the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL, yet the number of athletes coming out at virtually every other level of sport is unprecedented. Interviews are fused with qualitative media analysis of coming out stories and informed by decades of literature on the unique intersection of sport, media, and sexual identity.

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Chapter 6. The Floodgates Open? The Future of the Openly-Gay Athlete

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· 6 ·

THE FLOODGATES OPEN?

The Future of The Openly-Gay Athlete

The end never comes when you think it will. It’s always ten steps past the worst moment, then a weird turn to the left.

—Lena Dunham, Not that Kind of Girl

We are all migrants through time.

—Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

This is not the book we thought we would be writing.

We conceived it the year Jason Collins and Michael Sam stepped into the media spotlight and found, if not a unanimously positive response, an overwhelmingly majority warm reception. We thought by the time several years had passed that we could catch a zeitgeist moment, that we could perhaps be writing a coda to a book that acknowledges analyzes the many other coming out stories in major men’s American team sports. But that, obviously, did not happen. Our initial celebratory tone was replaced by an odd, optimistic grimace—less laudatory but arguably more insightful.

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