Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

May 7, 2014

Athletes coming out

New sports playbook: How to come out as gay

(Continued)

One fundamental decision was to put the team first — informing his coach, teammates and staff.

"You're putting everyone in the best position so no one's blindsided," Davis said.

Despite the recent high-profile coming outs, many gay athletes aren't ready to take that step. Davis said he's in contact with several players who are out to their coaches and teammates, but not to the wider world.

"A lot of them don't come out to protect their teammates, who will have to answer questions they've never been asked before," he said.

Some other gay athletes "are dealing with so much shame that they're nowhere near ready to come out," Davis said.

Since its launch in 1999, Outsports has chronicled the stories of more than 200 athletes who made the decision to come out, including 77 in 2013 and dozens more this year, according to Zeigler. The vast majority have been athletes who did not gain national attention.

Zeigler said one milestone came in 2007 when John Amaechi, four years after ending his NBA career, came out as gay. Amaechi won support from former teammates and coaches, while retired NBA player Tim Hardaway Sr. was disinvited from the 2007 All-Star Game after responding to Amaechi's news by saying, "I hate gay people."

"That moment showed us where things were headed," Zeigler said. "Gay athletes were going to be accepted, and homophobes were going to be rejected."

Speculation persists about when the first openly gay players will surface in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

While some MLB veterans have come out as gay after retirement, the NHL has never had an active or former player come out — a fact that puzzles NHL director of player safety Patrick Burke.

Burke, the son of longtime NHL executive Brian Burke, helped launch the You Can Play Project in 2012 in honor of his younger brother, Brendan, who revealed he was gay to his family in 2007 and died in a car accident in 2010.

The NHL, said Patrick Burke, has done more than any of the other major leagues to prepare the way for openly gay players.

"We know there are active gay NHL players and retired gay players," he said. "When they're ready to speak up, the league is fully ready to help them."

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