2014 has been a triumphant year for gay professional athletes. Earlier this year, Jason Collins was the first openly gay player to sign a contract with the NBA. More recently, Michael Sam became first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. In a team sporting culture where camaraderie and success have traditionally been tied to masculine overtones and homophobic gestures, these and other moves have undoubtedly ushered in a new era of professional sports­­–one in which a greater number of athletes, teams, and leagues are willing to take a stance against the exclusion of players based on their sexual orientation.

Collins and Sam are bringing to light a public issue that sociologists have seen coming in a wide range of sports and social settings.
These athletes’ stories are a particularly important development in a social arena which is traditionally dominated by men and masculinity.

These trends also reflect broader shifts in gender and sexuality over the past few years. For more information on shifting norms regarding sexual orientation in other institutions, check out Kathleen Hull’s recent TSP white paper on the changing public perception of same-­sex marriage in the US.