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Outside the Lines:
The World of the Gay Athlete (1998)
|Here's the transcript from our Dec. 16, 1998 show: The World of the Gay Athlete
Reggie White, NFL Player - The homosexuals are trying to compare their plight with the plight of black people. Homosexuality is a decision. It is not a race.
Bob Ley, host - This wasn't just a fundamentalist minister. To the gay community, this was a major sporting figure putting a popular face, an athletic face, on homophobia, the fear or hatred of homosexuals. Whether or not that was true, this much is - in the ever so much of sporting world, merely raising the topic of gays. How prevalent are they? Can they function openly? That brings discomfort and, more often than not, silence. Is the America outside of sports comfortable with homosexuals? Just a few months ago, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, allegedly because he was gay. When the tabloids said Tom Cruise is gay, he sued.
By some measures, society has grown more tolerant of gays.
TV show "Will & Grace" - No, trust me, it is not a good way to meet men. Because gay men don't ballroom dance.
Ley - For the first time this fall, a TV series stars a gay male character, and by one count, nearly two dozen gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters appear in primetime. But in sports, the public history of homosexuals is slim. Tennis greats Bill Tilden, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, world champion Rudy Galindo, Olympic champion Greg Louganis. All of these athletes share one important trait - they competed individually, without teammates.
And while women's team sports have confronted the issue of lesbians, for men homosexuals in the locker room, in a team atmosphere remains an unspoken and ignored topic, a taboo, despite the statistical certainty America is cheering for gay athletes.
Martina Navratilova - We know there are gay football players, gay baseball players, gay hockey players, basketball.
Terance Mathis, Falcons wide receiver - You may have three or four gay guys on your team and not even know it.
Ley - Would openly gay players be accepted?
Cris Carter, Vikings wide receiver - I think there would be situations that would occur on the field that would be tough for a person who's homosexual.
Ley - This high school player was outed.
Greg Congdon, high school football player - And they said, 'Why would we want a faggot on the team?'
Ley - Through his 10 years on the NFL, this receiver fought constant whispers.
Ernest Givens, NFL player - I'm not gay, but there's a rumor that's out there, and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.
Ley - It may be the most poisonous insult in sports. Fear and anger, pride and hope in the world of the gay athlete.
Ley - This show will raise uncomfortable questions. Why investigate homosexuality in sports? Well, simply raise the question with an athlete and watch the body language and listen to the comments. Are there gay athletes? How many?
Well, there's no place more macho, some would say homophobic, than a men's locker room, from high school to the pros. In fact, as Greg Garber reports, that top level of American team sports may be the most hostile environment for a gay man.
Greg Garber, Reporter, ESPN - In the world of professional team sports, Ian Roberts stands alone. For the past decade, he has been one of the best players in the Australian Rugby League. He is also openly homosexual, coming out to the world by posing for a gay art magazine four years ago.
Ian Roberts, Australian Rugby League - Now, I was in a loving relationship and I didn't want to dismiss our relationship. I would never - I would never ignore my boyfriend or pretend not to be his partner to make someone else feel comfortable.
Garber - Here in the United States, there are over 4,000 athletes who play in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and major league baseball. None of them are openly gay. That clashes with the often-stated figure that five to 10 percent of the general population is homosexual.
Roberts - I think, unfortunately, when you talk about 4,000 athletes, there's roughly 400 athletes who are not being honest.
Al MacInnis, Blues defenseman - You realize that 10 percent of the population is gay, and out of 700 or 800 hockey players, you have to assume that there's probably some out there.
Buck Showalter, Diamondbacks manager - I've heard the percentages and I wouldn't - it wouldn't surprise me at all.
Bruce Armstrong, Patriots offensive tackle - Between 80 and 150 guys would be homosexual, if you believe the statistics and if you can correlate the statistics into football.
Garber - While statistics rule in sports, the actual number of gay athletes is impossible to determine. Dave Pallone, a former National League umpire for 10 years, has been openly homosexual since 1988. He says he knows more than 15 current professional athletes that are gay. How does he know?
Dave Pallone, former National League umpire - I have been within their company, and their company meaning at specific parties for gay people, whether it be a fundraiser or whether it be just a gathering at a certain place. And that's how you know for sure. And when you see them face-to-face and you talk to them face to face, you know for sure.
Garber - Today, Pallone leads groups in diversity and motivational training. He says that just because an athlete is with a woman doesn't mean that he isn't gay or bisexual. Pallone himself was once engaged.
Pallone - You hide your face with a beard. That's what they do. They get a girlfriend and that's considered a beard. And people will either have arranged marriages, or they will have a girlfriend that's arranged, or - they will do anything to hide their true identity.
Garber - Three professional athletes in team sports declared their true identity after retiring. Running back David Kopay was the pioneer. He played nine seasons in the NFL and came out in 1975 to a newspaper reporter. In 1992, Roy Simmons, a former NFL offensive lineman, announced his homosexuality on the Phil Donahue show. A year later, Glenn Burke, former Dodger and Oakland A came out. He died in 1995 of AIDS complications.
This past summer, Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who came out in 1995, discussed with New York One News the pressure on a closeted team sport athlete.
Greg Louganis, former Olympic diver - I have been approached by some people - players on teams - and said that they're torn. I was in an individual sport, so the only person that I had to rely on was myself. I can't imagine what it would be like being on a team, because you do need the support of your fellow teammates.
Garber - Eight years ago, British soccer star Justin Fashanu was the first ever team sport player to come out during his professional career.
Justin Fashanu, British soccer star - I thought that the situation was - let's be honest, there's so much hypocrisy and there's so many people who are not what they say they are. It's not a big deal inasmuch as people are either employing me for what I can do on the soccer field or not.
Garber - Even before coming out publicly, Fashanu's career had begun a downward spiral. He was shifted from team to team and eventually moved to the U.S. to coach. He committed suicide earlier this year.
TV Show "Arli$$" - Your quarterback is one concussion away from being a ward of the state.
Garber - In HBO's Arliss series, Arliss, the fictional agent, can't find a job for his backup quarterback client because there are rumors he is gay.
TV Show "Arli$$" - Football is all about machismo. There is no greater prorate in pro football than homosexuality. Look, I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that's the way it is.
Garber - Macho is the very essence of team sport in general, and football in particular. For that reason, NFL players say this atmosphere makes it impossible for a gay player to come out.
Armstrong - As close as professional athletes are - you live together, you room together, you shower together - would you be that comfortable if you knew somebody was a homosexual? And I don't think so.
Carter - I think it would be tough for a lot of the athletes that I play with to think that while that I'm showering, that I'm performing on the field, I'm bleeding, I'm fighting with a person that is a homosexual.
Darrell Green, Redskins cornerback - I won't be one voting for it, so I'm on the other side. So - and we don't have a locker room. We don't have any more space in our locker room.
Johnny Roland, Cardinals running back coach - I would assume if that person was of that persuasion, I'm not so sure the quality of his toughness.
Dana Stubblefield, Redskins defensive lineman - You're living with these guys six months out of the year, so you have to get used to what they do, used to what they say, the whole nine. But when you figure out a guy is gay, it's - you just get a real "uh" feeling of being around him.
Garber - Some players believe that, in this homophobic environment, the violence in this violent game would escalate.
Carter - I think there would be situations that will occur on the field that would be tough for a person who is homosexual, because I know there will be people definitely taking shots at him.
Danny Kanell, Giants quarterback - Every Sunday he'd probably have to play 10 times harder than anybody else because everybody would be geared up to taking it out on him.
Armstrong - As open-minded as we all like to think we are, it would be a distraction and I don't think - I don't think we're developed well enough to handle that right now.
Garber - The potential loss of off-field earnings is also cited as a reason why players don't come out. Leigh Steinberg, an agent who has negotiated over $1 billion worth of deals in the sports world, says it would be easier to represent and secure endorsements for a convicted felon than for a gay player.
Leigh Steinberg, sports agent - I think it would have a devastating effect in terms of the marketability of any athlete to come out and talk about gayness.
Garber - In a national poll commissioned by Outside the Lines, sports fans were asked under three different scenarios, if your favorite player announced that he was gay, would you be more or less likely to support him. The average response for 70 percent of those sports fans was it either made no difference, or they would be more likely to support the player. But 28 percent said they would be less likely to support the player. Some athletes believe that potential loss of more than a quarter of a gay player's fan base is what keeps him in the closet.
Terance Mathis, Falcons wide receiver - I think that's the fear. I think fans - the way fans are today, they'd be very hard on a player and on his family.
Garber - But despite the largely homophobic landscape, sexuality doesn't matter to all players.
Mathis - I don't care if you're gay or not. If you're fighting for one cause, and that's to help this team win and get on to the playoffs and into the Super Bowl, it doesn't matter. I don't care what you do when you leave the complex or the stadium, but when we come together as a team, we're a team.
Kopay - Hi. This is David Kopay. Is Tina there?
Garber - David Kopay says that some of his teammates knew he was gay and it didn't matter. But since he came out to the public three years after he retired, Kopay didn't imagine 23 years later he'd be standing so alone.
Kopay - It just kind of shows you the peer pressure and the group mentality and really the depth of the closet, which is really a difficult thing to shake.
Steinberg - Now, it would take a Jackie Robinson, someone who was willing to live with all of the slights, all of the comments, all of the hostility, and go through it. That's a rare type of person.
Garber - Do you think there will ever be a day where guys can do that?
Jamal Anderson, Falcons running back - Well, I don't know. I don't know. We have a lot of problems to address as a society. So one day, hopefully, eventually, one at a time they'll take care of themselves, but not right now in sports. I don't think so. It's just too hostile still.
Ley - Still ahead, you will meet a teenage athlete isolated by that hostility in his hometown. And next, Aussie Rugby player Ian Roberts, a national star in the aftermath of his coming out. Greg Garber continues his report. And a gay American college athlete fears violence and spoke only if we concealed his identity.
Garber - After living a lie for a decade, Australian Rugby League star Ian Roberts decided to be honest.
Roberts - I'm not going to be this person people want me to be to keep up this image for Rugby League to make Rugby League seem like this perfect sport for macho, heterosexual men. It was never that for me. I was just at a point in my life where I had enough.
Garber - Calling his homosexuality the worst kept secret in Rugby circles for 10 years, Roberts came out to the public in February of 1995, announcing it with a nude photo spread in the gay magazine Blue.
Roberts - I suppose to most people when they come out, they come out to their family and friends. But I was someone with a profile and a public figure. When you come out, you come out to the whole world. When I originally told my father - my parents, it was in about '93. I suppose the worst piece of advice my father told me was not to tell anyone else because it could ruin my career. But I suppose I'm a bit stubborn that way.
Garber - Roberts lost some of his endorsements, but his major sponsor, the shoe company Puma, stuck with him. On the field, there were times when he was a target of both opponents and fans.
Roberts - You faggot, you slimy this and slimy that. But, I mean, they weren't telling me anything I didn't know. That sort of thing you really use to keep you going and inspire you to keep going to prove a point. But the fear is we're just as tough as everyone else.
Garber - And how did his teammates react?
Roberts - They're fine. There's not a problem. They know I can joke about it with them. It's actually a good thing to break the ice with people.
Garber - The 33-year-old Roberts, who announced his retirement two and a half weeks ago, says he doesn't regret being honest and wished he had come out sooner.
Roberts - If I had known 10 years ago what I know now, I would never ever have denied being gay as a professional athlete. My life is so much more balanced, I'm much happier in my life now, and there wasn't the adverse effect that I always thought it was going to be.
Ley - But in the U.S., virtually all gay male athletes face a hostile environment. And who will describe it publicly? We contacted several dozen gay athletes, some in pro sports, most in college. Some talked privately, but only one agreed to an interview.
Tonight, we meet an NCAA swimmer who is out to his friends, his teammates, and his family. He appears anonymously for fear of violence against his family or himself. He spoke with Kelly Neal.
Kelly Neal - How do the heterosexual athletes on your team feel about having gay teammates, particularly in the locker room?
Unidentified Speaker - I think they're comfortable enough with their own heterosexuality not to worry about this possibility of interaction with gay people. It has never come up if the straight athletes feel comfortable having gay athletes in the locker room. I don't think it's an issue, at least not on my team.
Neal - But heterosexual athletes, you say, have no problem with the fact that there are gay teammates in the locker room, showering with them, in the locker next to them as they're getting changed, nothing, no problems.
Unidentified Speaker - No problem that they've communicated to me in any way. I don't - people don't wait until I'm out of the shower or wait until I'm out of the locker room to do anything. They don't insist that I go somewhere else.
Neal - Do you know of other gay athletes in other sports on campus?
Unidentified Speaker - Yes.
Neal - That are men?
Unidentified Speaker - Yes.
Neal - Why do you think an athlete wouldn't come out?
Unidentified Speaker - Well, in football there's obviously much more - it's much more physical. In other sports, such as the running sports or swimming, there's not physical contact between the athletes. But if you take something, such as basketball, soccer or especially football, you're going to have a lot more physical contact, the situation with people on top of each. And that makes people very uncomfortable to think about, "Well, I'll have a gay person on my back," or something.
Neal - Have you ever spoken to them about coming out as you've come out?
Unidentified Speaker - The one gay basketball player I know is out, and actually, he helped me come out to my team. We've tried a couple of times to set up a group - a support group - for gay athletes here at the school in all different sports. The problem is getting people to come to it because then they worry that if they went to the group, it would somehow leak back to their team.
Ley - Teammates. This young gay athlete says his teammates have made him an outcast in the wake of his suicide attempt. His story is next.
Navratilova - It starts in school. You see gay kids. It's still OK in schools for kids to be called faggots. The teachers don't step in and say, "No, you can't say that." If somebody were to call a kid nigger, the teacher will step up and say, "You cannot say that," but if you're called a faggot then the teacher looks the other way.
Ley - What about the atmosphere in school? Here's a story from small town America that illustrates why gay male athletes stay in the closet - in this case, a teenager. Now, teens have enough to cope with growing up; gay teens even more. The rate of attempted suicide among gay teens is at least three times the overall teen average. The athlete you're about to meet, his problem seemingly began with a suicide attempt.
Greg Congdon, former Troy High School athlete - My whole life was in sports - football, wrestling, archery. And when you're out in that field, you're like family.
Ley - That's what Greg Congdon learned playing football and wrestling in Troy, Pennsylvania. At the age of 18, he knows that friendships flourish in those games.
Congdon - I was all close to all my teammates, very close.
Ley - Why?
Congdon - Because we had to count on each other when we're out in the field. We had to know each other well. Most of us in a small school, we have all the same classes together. We grew up together.
Ley - Here, sports matter. School closes for the opening of the deer season, and the gym has more seats than the town has residents. But as Greg Congdon played and wrestled through his teens, he came to realize he was homosexual. It became his fearful secret, because he was an athlete.
Congdon - I've heard all the gay jokes. And just to be able to sit there and not be able to be fazed by that was hard.
Ley - Because a locker room is about the most macho place on earth.
Congdon - Yeah.
Ley - Talking about girls.
Congdon - Girls, parties, sex.
Ley - And you had to live the part?
Congdon - Yeah. Well, like I said, I ended up trying to cover up me being gay, so I went out with girlfriends. Matter of fact, most of my girlfriends were cheerleaders. So I covered myself up pretty good.
Ley - He was confused about dealing with his sexuality, and then depressed because there was no one to turn to. In February, he tried to kill himself.
Congdon - I took 33 Tylenol, I went to bed, got up the next morning, I took 10 more, because I was upset that I even woke up.
Ley - Only when he was hospitalized did he tell his parents his secret.
JoAnn Congdon, Greg's mother - I thought I could handle this. I mean, given the thought of him being gay and alive or being dead, I could handle the gay part. Committing suicide, no, I couldn't handle that.
Ley - But while Greg was in the hospital, he was being outed against his will. He says a woman who works at the hospital read his medical records and told her son, who was Greg's football teammate. The woman denied the charge from Outside the Lines and declined to speak on camera.
Before you even knew, you believe his friends were telling and retelling that he was gay.
J. Congdon - Right.
Ley - How did that news hit you?
J. Congdon - It hit me hard, because these were people that we trusted, and this was Greg's close friend.
Ley - The former teammate Greg Congdon says outed him denies doing so. That same teammate said to us, "What was I supposed to feel when a guy I'd known for much of my life turns out to be gay?"
G. Congdon - They kind of felt betrayed. Here they thought they knew me all my life and then this big secret came out. And then they're the ones that really took it the worst. That really, really was the worst to me. My ex-friends, my ex-teammates were all together and they said, "If you play football or any sports, we'll make you pay, we'll make it hard for you."
Ley - Several teammates told us they would be uncomfortable with Greg in the locker room. Said one, "I was afraid he'd put the moves on." Another regretted his physical contact wrestling with Greg. All agreed, Greg Congdon was frozen out by his teammates.
G. Congdon - The thing that hurt me the most was seeing all my friends that used to be my friends sat there huddled up in a corner, talking about me, looking over at me and laughing and stuff. And, like, my best friend called me that one night and he said, "I have nothing against you, it's just I can't talk to you in school." I was like, "Why?" and he goes, "Because they'll think something's up."
Ley - And then there was the name calling.
What were some of the things that they said to you that were the most hurtful?
G. Congdon - (Censored) faggot. That kind of went right down into - it just hurts. Fudge packer. They said all the gay names. And it's just amazing how many gay names there are out there.
J. Congdon - They probably didn't want him on their team. You wouldn't want the neighboring communities to know that you had a gay on your team.
Ley - Why's that?
J. Congdon - Well, I think they all have an idea of what an athlete is, and it's not a gay. That's what they think. I mean, he played on their team for years and there was no problem.
Ley - Did your coaches ever call you, talk to you?
G. Congdon - No.
Ley - They didn't wonder or try and talk you to stay on the team?
G. Congdon - Nope. The only one that talked to me to stay - even remotely talk about staying in school would've been my principal.
Ley - Robert Grantier attempted to convince Greg to remain in school, despite the emotions expressed by his teammates in their name-calling, their comments, and their silence.
Robert Grantier, school principal - We're asking kids to be more mature than many times adults are at this point in time. Just because you don't understand something doesn't give you a right to prosecute or go after it. You need to respect it.
Ley - Greg left school. Now he surfs the Web for current events, preparing for a GED exam, watching his senior year from a distance. But the football games this fall, he still went.
G. Congdon - My first thought was I'd go to the games and cheer against them. They made my life miserable. They took everything away that I cared about, loved, and really looked forward to in life. And when I went to the football games, I just found it impossible to cheer against them, because this is my old team, my teammates. And no matter what they did to me, I still couldn't cheer against them.
Ley - Yet one teammate said when Greg was spotted in the crowd from the bench, the joking began again at his expense.
G. Congdon - So I lost everything here.
Ley - So when you go to college, will that be it for this town for you?
G. Congdon - I'm looking forward to it, yeah. It's going to be it. Once I leave I'm never coming back.
Ley - Born and raised here?
G. Congdon - Born and raised.
Ley - Eighteen years.
G. Congdon - Yeah.
Ley - And basically your teammates have driven you out?
G. Congdon - Basically, yeah.
Ley - Next, a lesbian in the locker room. This girl player describes how her teammates deal with her. And later, the homosexual rumor mill, how whispers impact an athlete.
Steinberg - If the word gay or homosexual is connected in public with an athlete, it will scar him for some period of time.
Billie Jean King, tennis player - In sports, I don't think we're there yet. I still think, deep down, everyone's afraid. And we do need more women and men to come out, but it's very difficult.
Ley - In August, Billie Jean King appeared on a national gay and lesbian task force panel, discussing homosexuality in sports.
Unidentified Speaker - Billie Jean, the first time you said lesbian, were you scared to say it out loud?
King - Yes, I was very afraid to say lesbian out loud, very. I was shaking and - yeah. But I'm glad I did.
Ley - King was outed in 1981. She says prominent lesbian athletes such as herself and Martina Navratilova pay a measurable financial price when they are outed.
King - We are vulnerable. It's obvious. When Martina came out, she lost all of her endorsements. When I was outed, I lost all my endorsements in less than 24 hours, and I was just going to retire. I had unbelievable endorsements for the next 10 years.
Ley - But Muffin Spencer-Devlin came out two years ago and did not lose any endorsement dollars because of it. Still, the issue of lesbians has dogged women's sports. In golf, it's the image problem. The popular stereotype is that most female athletes are gay, while all male athletes are straight.
Navratilova - For women, on the other hand, they have to prove they're straight if they're athletes that presume that they're lesbians, and that's why we need to get rid of homophobia in sports, particularly in the women's sports, because it's not just the gay girls or women - young women - that are affected by this. It's the straight ones, because the straight girls are afraid to be asked this because they would be called lesbian.
Ley - The issue is now out in the open. Two years ago at the Final Four, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association sponsored a forum on homophobia in women's sports. Among the topics, negative recruiting, the practice of telling recruits the competing school has a so-called lesbian program.
Pat Griffin, author, "Strong Women, Deep Closets - Lesbians and Homophobia in Sport - They're afraid that if a school gets a lesbian reputation, that they will be able to recruit the athletes they need to have a good team. And unfortunately, that's - even in this day and age, with some of the changes that we see in the larger culture, that's a legitimate concern of college coaches, because it does happen.
Ley - Because there are lesbians in sports. Kirstin Cummings came out recently. She first played in the ABL, now in Europe, and she says 35 to 40 percent of players in both the ABL and the WNBA are gay. Insurance coverage for same-sex partners is an issue for the new WNBA Player's Union. And while both leagues have many lesbian fans, not a single current player in either league has come out publicly.
Griffin - They are so thrilled to have this opportunity to play professional basketball in the United States they - I think it makes them be more conservative. Plus, most of them came from Division I athletic programs where the norm is you don't come out - the coaches don't come out, the players don't come out. And in fact, players who do come out or who do call too much attention to themselves run the risk of being discriminated against.
Ley - Jamie Garner says that's what happened to her. She's a lesbian and the second-leading scorer last year at Northern Kentucky University. She's suing both the head coach and athletic director, claiming she was cut from the team because of her sexual orientation. But the coach said she did not want lesbians on her team. The coach denies the charge, saying Garner was cut because she destroyed team chemistry. The case is pending.
Coming out does change things for an athlete. Kelly Neal now with a basketball player who publicly discusses her homosexuality for the very first time.
Neal - Bojanna Vidic, or Boky for short, came to the U.S. from Croatia in 1991. After spending a year at a junior college in Texas, the five-foot, nine-inch point guard accepted a scholarship from Oregon State. She went on to become the Beaver's all time assist leader, fifth in PAC-10 history.
TV Basketball Game Announcer - Look at that pass by Vidic.
Neal - Throughout her college years, the honors piled up, including all PAC-10 and honorable mention All-American. But she kept her homosexuality a secret.
Boky Vidic - I was afraid of it. I mean, I shouldn't say afraid of it. I was - well, yes, scared, afraid, pretty much meaning the same thing. I was considering, yeah, what if they kick me off the team. There was all this stuff going through my head.
Neal - The turning point for Vidic came in the fall of '95, her senior season. After two years of hiding her homosexuality from the team, Vidic decided to come out.
Vidic - I did experience a little tension with my head coach. I told her that I was considering talking to my teammates about it. She kind of was telling me, "Hey, you know, are you sure you're the way you are? Are you sure you want to say it right now?"
Judy Spoelstra, Oregon State women's basketball coach - I didn't say to her, "Are you sure that this is what you are," I basically said, "Are you sure that you want to tell the team and what are your reasons for telling the team?"
Vidic - So I was extremely upset about it because I was trying to find a comfort level within my coach where she would be like, "OK, this is great."
Spoelstra - Any time an athlete wants to come forward with something that's of the personal nature, you always have to figure out how it's going to affect the team. I don't have players coming in to practice and saying, "OK, I'm heterosexual," or "OK, I'm sleeping with half the football team." That doesn't happen. But if it did, I'd be like, "Whoa, wait a minute. These are team issues that could affect the team chemistry."
Vidic - The first thing I did is I went downstairs and I told my teammates.
Neal - Did you cry when you told your teammates?
Vidic - I was very, very emotional, very emotional. It was just such a big relief off my chest. I just - I thought if I had a mic at the time hooked up to the whole world, I probably would have screamed it on top of my lungs, "Hey, I'm gay and deal with it. I'm fine with it."
Spoelstra - When Boky came out to the team, it was a relief for the team and the chemistry improved from then on.
Neal - Oregon State finished second in the PAC-10 that season and received an NCAA tournament bid. But word of Vidic's coming out spread, and it was used to hurt the school in recruiting.
Spoelstra - We had a lot of other coaches in our conference use it negatively because Boky was out and was open. And so people want to make inferences about the whole team. It's the other school that's saying things about you in the home visit, but that's what hurts. And I think that's the real issue of homophobia.
Neal - Vidic played last season with the ABL's Atlanta Glory, and she spurned offers to play professionally in Europe in hopes of signing again with a team in the U.S. Vidic estimates that up to 60 percent of ABL players are gay, and says homosexuality is talked about more in the pros than in college.
Vidic - It was like, is she gay, or do you think she ever had experience like that. And people talk about, totally talk about it. Yes, I did, but no, or no I didn't and I'm totally not up for it or stuff like that, or just joking around, "Hey, I have a crush on you," and they know you have a partner and they all have boyfriend and stuff like that. So, it's a lot of playing around. But it's talking about it and that's the best thing about it, it's that you talk about it, because without that talk, we wouldn't even know that there are people like this.
Neal - Did you ever feel that, because you are attracted to women - did you ever feel that somehow posed another dynamic in the locker room?
Vidic - Totally not, because even if - I look at the body. I don't look at it, whoa, the body wow. I do, but it's like admiring their muscles. It's not a start of, OK, if I look at her or his body, I am going to bed with him or stuff like that. It's totally not the case. It's admiring the body for the body that it is.
Ley - For the most part, Vidic and Terese, her partner of three years, feel safe living together in Oregon, but they didn't want us to say what town they lived in or shoot video inside their home in case someone recognized their apartment complex. They say lesbian friends in their area have been discriminated against.
For her part, Vidic says an excerpt from a poem about coming out helped her overcome her fear of speaking out on national television.
Vidic - It reads like this, one quote of it. "I was very scared, she sighed. I smiled. Somebody once told me that being brave means doing what you got to do even though you're scared." And I was scared coming into this meeting, but I'm brave now, because I know there's people out there like me, and it's OK for who you are.
Ley - There is only one openly gay collegian athletic director. Next, he describes the challenges in his life.
Ley - Mike Muska is athletic director at Oberlin College, the first and only openly gay collegiate AD.
Mike Muska, Athletic Director, Oberlin College - I got out of college athletics for a period of time because I was concerned that I couldn't stay in college athletics being gay. I made the decision when I took the job at Oberlin that here was one place that I could be at and go back to doing the thing that I love.
Ley - Muska came to Oberlin in June after five years out of college sports, coaching at two prep schools. He had been Brown University's assistant AD. It was there he came out. Before that, at Northwestern, and as SEC Coach of the Year at Auburn, Muska coached 20 All-Americans in men and women's track and cross-country.
At the recent National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Symposium, he discussed the daily challenges and perceptions he faces as an openly gay administrator and coach.
Muska - I've been very careful over the years in terms of situations since I've come out. I don't go into locker rooms. I don't create an opportunity where there can be a concern that I'm doing something that a student could allege is totally improper. If a student comes into my office and has a discussion about these kinds of issues, the door remains open, or I ask him to come with a friend.
So I think we have to plan as administrators and as coaches many times, not knowing what can happen behind closed doors, to make sure we protect ourselves as well.
Ley - Oberlin's freshmen have accepted their AD. They've asked Muska to be class advisor. He understands he is setting an example for other gays in athletics.
Muska - We know that there are gay athletes out there. We know that there are other gay athletic directors out there. It's just a question of who's comfortable enough with themselves to say, "OK, I'm willing to put this all on the table," so that some of those kids out there that are wrestling with these issues can look up and say, "Maybe I can do this and be that kind of a person later on in my life."
Ley - But a heterosexual athlete fighting years of rumors that he's gay? Next, an NFL Pro Bowl player describes how his life was affected.
Ley - Leigh Steinberg is one of sport's most powerful agents. Among his clients, a number of unmarried athletes. And Steinberg's heard the rumors some of them are gay, rumors that include Troy Aikman and Steve Young.
Steinberg - I really have never had an athlete tell me that he was gay. And in the case of some of the athletes that are speculated about, they happen to be not only not gay, but heavily heterosexual, and so it's all the more ironic.
But again, there have been times when I've talked to people in the press who have asked me direct questions, and I answer them directly, but not on the record and not for attribution, because the difficult part of it is that, if the word gay or homosexual is connected in public with an athlete, it will scar him for some period of time.
Ley - Steve Young, in his current commercial campaign, pines for a lost love. That love turns out to be a man, teammate Jerry Rice.
Steve Young - Jerry?
Jerry Rice - Yeah.
Young - Don't tell the guys about the flowers.
Commercial Voiceover - Official card of the NFL and everywhere you want to be.
Steinberg - There were some subtexts there. I mean, Steve Young is very confident in his sexuality. People don't understand Mormons very well. They don't understand what the religious admonitions are in terms of that religion, and so they can misinterpret. But we're completely comfortable with who he is in the world. And part of that is to be able to poke fun at some of the speculation.
Ley - Was there fear? Was there fear that people would just sort of play into that and not get it?
Steinberg - Yes.
Ley - How did you get past that? A sense of humor?
Steinberg - I think a - I think a sense of humor and - but definitely looking in a script like that, there's concern that people misinterpret. But at a certain level, it's too hard to live your life with worrying about every nasty rumor.
Ley - But the rumors are out there. We hear them all the time. Within the past few weeks, one NFL star addressed his teammates to combat whispers that he's gay or bisexual. In reporting for this show, we consistently heard rumors mentioning one name time and again, three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ernest Givins, a 10-year NFL veteran. He's been retired for three seasons. And while he still doesn't believe the rumors throw him from the game, when he talked to Andrea Kramer two years ago, it was obvious the rumors took a toll.
Andrea Kramer - Had these rumors always been out there about you?
Ernest Givins, NFL wide receiver - Definitely, yes.
Kramer - You've heard them?
Givins - I've heard them.
Kramer - What do you hear?
Givins - He's gay. Don't worry about him, he's gay.
Kramer - So I'll ask you, are you gay?
Givins - No.
Kramer - If you were, would you tell me?
Givins - Yes. Yes, if I were I would tell you.
Kramer - People are going to watch that and they're going to hear that comment you just made and they're going to say, "Well, of course he's going to say that. Of course he's going to stay in the closet. Of course."
Givins - I'm prepared about that, too. You can tell when a person is lying and you can tell when a person is telling the truth. And that camera is right in my face, I'm sure, and people know from by the looks of your eyes. If I have something to hide, I'll be sitting here doing an interview with my sunglasses on my face. I'll be sitting here doing an interview with my hat turned a different way with my sunglasses on. I don't have anything to hide. This is Ernest Givens and this is what you got and I'm not gay.
Kramer - I think that the strange thing, and you seem to be aware of this, is that the rumors have been out there for so long. How can that be?
Givins - How could that be? Because, one, when they have Super Bowl parties I don't go, one, when they have major type events I don't go, another thing, when they have things that involve with a lot of players, I don't go. So everybody feels that if I'm not a part of something that's major, and I'm not a part of something that's "outstanding," then I'm hiding something. I'm not hiding anything. I'm not hiding not one thing at all. They can say whatever they want to say.
Kramer - Is this more of an albatross than people would understand? Is this more of a burden than people would understand?
Givins - I think it is. I think it is. People just don't know how hard it is in today's society to make it. But when you have bad things lingering over your head, that makes it even tougher.
Kramer - What can you do about it?
Givins - Nothing. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Kramer - You work with young receivers.
Givins - Yes.
Kramer - You've taken young receivers under your wing.
Givins - Yes.
Kramer - Rumors abound, Ernest is hitting on the young guys. Do you hear that?
Givins - Yeah.
Kramer - What's the worst it's ever gotten for you?
Givins - I guess just when you see a person that's been your friend for a long time and then you find out they're the ones that's saying it. That hurts the most. And that same person is in your face everyday.
Kramer - This happened to you when you were with the Oilers?
Givins - Yeah. Yeah.
Kramer - Did you ever confront that person?
Givins - No, never.
Kramer - You want to?
Givins - I want to grab him by the neck and choke the crap out of him. That's what I want to do, but I don't do that.
Kramer - In the course of a game against an opponent - you have a DB that's up against you at the line or something or walking into an opposing stadium, do people ever yell things or opponents ever just taunt you?
Givins - Yeah.
Kramer - Do you have any of this stuff?
Givins - No, not about those things.
Kramer - Because some players said, "Yeah, Ernestine." You heard that one?
Givins - Yeah. Yeah.
Kramer - Who calls you Ernestine?
Givins - I can't pinpoint who. Like I said, I wish I could. I would grab him by the neck and choke the crap out of him. But, yeah, Ernestine. And I laugh a good, fake laugh. But deep down inside you just don't know I want to take his head and beat the out of you, but I'm not going to do that.
Kramer - Is being gay one of the worst things that could be said about an athlete?
Givins - Yes.
Kramer - If somebody said Ernest Givens hit his girlfriend, it wouldn't be as bad as somebody saying Ernest Givens is gay?
Givins - Right. If they say, I found Ernest Givens driving at 140 miles an hour, get pulled over with cocaine in his car, or whatever the case may be, that's nothing. They say, one, we see that and hear that every day with athletes. But when you start stereotyping athletes, start putting that gay thing on them, that hurts more than anything. That hurts more than anything.
Kramer - And what does that say about sports or what does that say about athletes or what does that say about a closed mentality that it does hurt so much?
Givins - That's why athletes never like to talk about it, because it hurts so bad.
Ley - But athletes who are homosexual and proud of it can compete. You'll see it next.
Ley - In 1984, American Bruce Hayes anchored an Olympic champion relay team. He won a gold medal and set a world record. Today, he holds three Masters world records. He set those at the Gay Games in 1994, winning a different kind of gold than 10 years earlier.
Bruce Hayes, Olympic champion - It was a different kind of satisfaction. It was more of - it was the first time that I was in an athletic environment or competitive environment but just being myself and still excelling and still succeeding and still setting records.
Ley - Hayes came out publicly at the third Gay Games in 1990. The gay games were founded in 1982 by Dr. Tom Waddell, who finished sixth in the decathlon for the U.S. in the 1968 Olympics. Waddell intended to name his event the Gay Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee prevented him from using that name.
Organizers described the Gay Games as all-inclusive and a cultural celebration.
In 1994, the fourth Gay Games attracted 11,000 athletes to New York, becoming at that time the largest ever sporting event. This year's fifth Gay Games in Amsterdam featured 15,000 athletes from 78 countries. The next Gay Games are scheduled for Sydney in 2002.
Roz Quarto, Co-President, The Federation of Gay Games - I think as long as sports remains the last bastion of acceptable homophobia, gays and lesbians are going to stop participating, or they're not going to be able to be open about their participation. We really are there because now, when you're at the Gay Games, you can be accepted for who you are, what you are, and what you do out on the field.
Hayes - One of the things that the Games does is just raise awareness of the fact that gay men and lesbians are athletes and they can be world class athletes and they can be armchair athletes, just run the whole gamut. And for that reason, I think it's been important and I think it has made an impact.
Ley - Is the sports establishment uncomfortable discussing gays in sports? We asked each of the 30 general managers in the National Football League to talk on the topic. No GM agreed to our request.
Should an athlete's sexuality matter? No, but in locker rooms, within the structure of a team, it certainly does. So often sports has been a leader for social change, but not here and not now. And hearing some of the voices tonight, one wonders if ever.
For Outside the Lines, I'm Bob Ley.
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