Homosexuality in sports in the United States

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Historically the United States has not embraced openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) athletes.

Individual sports[edit]

The study of the relationship between sports and homosexuality did not emerge until around the 1990s, when Brian Pronger and Michael Messner began interviewing athletes about their views on homosexuality. Neither researcher was able to find a male athlete who was openly gay and active competitors in both individual and team sports.[1] They suggested that it was not that there were no such athletes during this period in time, but they were just too afraid to admit to it due to their teammates’ opposition to homosexuality. Messner reiterated this opposition in his 1992 study: “The extent of homophobia in the sports world is staggering. Males (in sports) learn early that to be gay, to be suspected of being gay, or even to be unable to prove one’s heterosexual status is not acceptable."[1]

Naturalized U.S. citizen Martina Navratilova was openly lesbian while still playing tennis, as was Billie Jean King, though previously married.

Team sports[edit]

A member of the United States women's national soccer team, Megan Rapinoe, came out in 2012.

In 2013, soccer's Robbie Rogers and basketball's Jason Collins publicly came out as gay.[2] Several athletes[who?] declared their support for both Rogers and Collins; also President Barack Obama contacted both athletes offering his support.[3] Thierry Henry, at the time playing in Major League Soccer, was quoted in a column for New York Daily News as saying "he (Rogers) is a human being, first of all. And that’s good enough."[3] Rogers then made his historic debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy in May 2013 and became the first openly gay male athlete to compete on a professional sporting team in North America.[3] In basketball, Sheryl Swoopes came out in 2005, Brittney Griner came out in 2013, and Elena Delle Donne came out in 2016.[4]

In 2014, Michael Sam, an openly gay college football player, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 NFL Draft, becoming both the first openly gay National Football League athlete and the first athlete in any sport to be drafted into a major league while already openly gay (rather than coming out after they were already playing in the league).

During his research, Anderson found "more openly gay runners and swimmers than football and baseball players."[1] He then hypothesized that this occurred because gay men likely abandoned the more macho sports in favor of sports that were more accepting of homosexuality.[1] In 2006, a Sports Illustrated poll of roughly 1,400 professional athletes found that a majority would be willing to accept a gay teammate. Although an aggressive and often violent sport, professional hockey (NHL) athletes seemed to be the most accepting of such teammates as 80% of its players approved of having a gay teammate.[1]

Nearly a quarter of those in the U.S. polled believe that openly gay athletes hurt sports in general, while over half think being openly gay hurts the athlete's career.[5]

In 2002, the National Gay Flag Football League was founded.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Anderson, E. (2011). "Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures: Three Decades of Evolving Research". Journal of Homosexuality. 58 (5): 565–578. doi:10.1080/00918369.2011.563652.
  2. ^ Slater, J. (2013-09-17). "Openly Gay Male Athletes Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, and Orlando Cruz struggling for impact". Huffington Post.
  3. ^ a b c Bondy, Stefan (2013-05-18). "Landon Donovan says Robbie Rogers' decision to go public with his sexuality 'must have been overwhelmingly good for him". New York Daily.
  4. ^ Hine, Chris; Thompson, Phil (August 3, 2016). "Elena Delle Donne engaged, comes out: 'I'm not at all going to hide anything'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  5. ^ "Comprehensive Poll on Homosexuals in Sports Reveals Bias Against Gay Athletes". USA Network. April 12, 2013.
  6. ^ Sastre, Sole (2016-06-28). "South Africa's rugby team Jozi Cats defy gay stereotypes". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2018-06-05.