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.
- Eric Anderson. 2011. “Updating the Outcome: Gay Atheletes, Straight Teams, and Coming Out in Educationally Based Sport Teams.” Gender and Society 25(2): 250-268
- Eric Anderson and Rachael Bullingham. 2013. “Openly Lesbian Team Sport Athletes in an Era of Decreasing Homohysteria.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 49(2): 1-14
These athletes’ stories are a particularly important development in a social arena which is traditionally dominated by men and masculinity.
- Michael A. Messner. 2007. Out of Play: Critical Essays on Gender and Sport. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
- Varda Burstyn. 1999. The Rites of Men: Manhood, Politics, and the Culture of Sport. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
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.