Who Will Be The First ?
This being the day we observe and celebrate the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems an apt time to reflect on advances made by minorities who have been oppressed over history in America.
Sports have shined a most public spotlight to show the progress that has been made (however slowly, in some instances) on the road to equality (if not complete acceptance), for all.
When Jesse Owens won gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he put the lie to Hitler’s ideal of Aryan Supremacy and struck a blow for race relations in our country.
When Joe Louis proudly wore the mantel of Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1937 to 1949, he was proclaimed to be “a credit to his race…..the human race”, by famed columnist Red Smith.
When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the course of American history was irrevocably changed.
There is a long litany of advances that have been made in our society involving African-Americans, including the election of one to the highest office in the land in 2008.
But there seems to remain one minority that hasn’t yet come close to gaining full acceptance --- gays and lesbians --- especially in the world of professional team sports, where there has yet to be a single active male athlete who has openly proclaimed himself to be gay.
When Magic Johnson shocked the world with his HIV-Positive pronouncement in 1991, it put a popular and sympathetic face to the issue, and changed the tone of the dialogue in our country on the topics of promiscuity and unprotected sex (both homo- and hetero-sexual), awareness of the disease itself, and funding for research in hopes of finding a cure.
So we wait and wonder if 2012 will be the year a male team-sport athlete comes forward and risks the wrath of the locker room and his teammates.
And given all the other rhetoric/mania he’s generated in the last two months (on the topics of football and religion, among others), I can’t help but wonder what the public discussion would sound like if the first to proclaim himself gay was ….. Tim Tebow.
There’s no question about it.