Fellow AMERICAblog Gay writer, Liz Newcomb, pointed me to a post over at Rod 2.0:Beta that features Comcast SportsNet being set to air “Out. The Glenn Burke Story” which chronicles the gay Oakland A’s baseball player.
Glenn Burke is still regarded as the first and only player in the big four (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) to come out as gay to his teammates while he was still playing.
The A’s Billy Martin called Burke faggot in front of his teammates. “By 1978 I think everybody knew,” Glenn Burke later said, adding that he was “sure his teammates didn’t care.” Management at the Dodgers and A’s detested Burke’s sexuality, but, according to most reports and the interviews in Out. The Glenn Burke Story, the teammates did not care. Fascinating … especially because we’re talking professional sports in the late 1970s
Former Dodgers teammate Reggie Smith learned about Burke’s sexuality (and off-the-field antics) through another player. Here’s a clip when he discusses it and stresses that he did not want the information to become public or it would “destroy his career”,
I have my own unique perspective of how incredibly difficult it must have been for Glenn Burke. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I heard the homophobic remarks first hand in professional baseball’s locker rooms, and it left its mark on and added to the struggle of the knowledge, followed by desperate fear and denial that I might be gay.
Although an obviously tragic story, Glenn Burke needs to be remembered as a brave gay American hero in the arena of professional sports. One day a gay American professional baseball player will successfully break down the door to the closet in the locker room. No matter what the profession, we must always remember our pioneers who fought and sacrificed their careers, and some their very lives, trying to live honestly and openly.
Also, I previously wrote about gay Welsh Rugby player, Gareth Thomas, and the need for those like him in the United States. I know some of you are absolute experts when it comes to professional athletics so before being chastised, let me add I do not regret writing that post. Instead, I ask that you consider it is a worthy endeavor to point out those who have bravely tried to move our civil rights forward. Anyone who does this should be considered a hero and worthy of our public praise.