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


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.

“«Media and the Coming Out of Gay Athletes in American Team Sports» provides a timely and insightful look at how media both silence and celebrate gay male athletes. Through interviews with the athletes themselves, Billings and Moscowitz center the voices of gay, male athletes within the complex discourses about masculinity, sexuality, and sporting institutions. I look forward to teaching this book in my classes on sport, media, and gender.”
Anne Osborne, Syracuse University

“The gay and lesbian social movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries serves as a model for promoting rapid social acceptance and legal equality. Despite this, myths and misattributions surround team sport athletes. This leaves some to maintain that a toxic and hostile environment must still exist for sexual minorities. While other works have examined the experiences of gay men in sport more generally, Billings and Moscowitz provide an informed first account of the relationship between professional sport and gay men.”
Eric Anderson, author, «21st Century Jocks: Sporting Men and Compulsory Heterosexuality»

“With the first book including professional sport and gay men, Billings and Moscowitz offer nuanced arguments for the status of and future for the openly gay male professional athlete.”
Rory Magrath, co-author, «Out in Sport: The Experiences of Openly Gay and Lesbian Athletes in Competitive Sport»