The recent reaction to Ian Thorpe’s “Coming Out,” raised and continued to raise some interesting questions about gay athletes and their acceptance in the world in which they make a living.
Hot on the heels of the Commonwealth Games, the Gay Games are now under way in Cleveland, Ohio.
This may not be an elite competition but the standards are expected to still be of a fairly high calibre in several events that the 7000 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender athletes will be participating in.
Some media outlets have noted that no high profile athletes who have ‘come out’ are in fact gracing the games with their presence, although American footballer Michael Sam of the St Louis Rams, who is possibly the highest profile gay athlete in the USA, is featuring in a video urging people to take part in a study into homophobia in sport.
This will be a survey with interesting results and one that should be carried out across the sporting landscape so that we can truly evaluate whether people really do care about the sexuality of their team mates or fellow competitors.
There are some who will say that if we find that to be the case, events such as the Gay Games will no longer have a reason to exist. Yet events such as this are big money spinners, for example the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney is Australia’s most successful event for attracting tourists from overseas and interstate.
So is the issue no longer just about the athlete’s sexuality? We raised the issue as to why in the past athletes were loathe to “come out,” for fear of losing sponsorship dollars, but now with the gay community offering new opportunities, and creating its own successful events, one has to wonder if this issue is now much greater than being just about the athlete.