Openly gay athletes

Are there any? I remember reading an SI article (IIRC) a few years back noting that in all four major league team sports, there has not been a single openly gay athlete. Is this true? Laws of chance would seem to indicate that at least some athletes were gay, and yet not one person has ever come out of the closet. I’m wondering whether this is because:

a) Athletics as a whole doesn’t attract homesexual men: most definately not true, as homosexuality has no more effect on athletic skill than heterosexuality does. I have known several gay men who were quite athletic and had great skill at team sports.

b) There’s an unwritten, unspoken-of code that keeps gay men from achieving success in athletics: Something like, if a man comes out of the closet in high school, even if he’s a great athlete, suddenly colleges aren’t interested in him. Seems ludicrous to me, and I;ve never heard any theories that explain it this way, still a plausible explanation.

c) There are heavy internal pressures for men particpating in team sports NOT to “come-out” even if they are gay: Makes most sense, espcially with guys like Reggie White playing next to you, as well as the heavily christianized locker-rooms that would discourage open homosexuality. Still, you’d think that in THIS day and age, SOMEONE would have spoken-up.

d) Some have come-out publicly, but the press has ignored it and no one noticed. A possibility, but this would be such a huge story, I doubt this as an explanation.

As a straight man who is an vocal and avid supporter of gay rights, it has always troubled me that no athlete has ever “come-out.” What a better path to widespread acceptance than if a man in the malest of professions were openly gay and what a model it would be for young males, gay and straight, for acceptance. So, anyone have any ideas about this. Do we need, or have we had, a gay “Jackie Robinson?” Why or why not?

The only one I can think of is Justin Fashanu, a big football (soccer) star in England in the early 80s. He was still playing when he came out (around 1990), although the best years of his career were already well behind him.

He killed himself a couple years ago after being accused of molesting a teenager - falsely, it seems.

Billy Bean used to play for the Padres (and maybe another team or two). He came out, but only after he had retired.

I seem to remember that there was also a gay umpire once. Can’t remember the name.

Can’t recall any US professional athlete coming out, except in the LPGA.

Greg Louganis and Billie Jean King come to mind.

Oh, well, there’s Martina Navratilova, of course. But the OP seemed to be referring specifically to gay men.

FWIW, a high school friend once got a hard on in the shower after practice; he was off the football team within a week. I may have just been naive at the time (probably was), but it looked to me as if he were just laughed off the team. Of course, the coaches might have quietly kicked him off, and the parents of the other kids may or may not have had something to say about it.

Hows about Carl Lewis? Although, I’m not sure if he is openly gay.

Amalie Mauresmo (sp?) a French tennis player. She was the subject of some fairly catty remarks by Martina Hingis a couple years back.
Muffin Spencer-Devlin on the LPGA tour is also openly gay.

(to self)
NO muffin jokes!

The OP seemed to be limiting consideration to US baseball, basketball, football, and hockey.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines series did the issue of gay athletes back in 1998. According to their timeline these are the incidences involving those sports:

1975 - David Kopay, NFL running back, 1964-1972; comes out three years after retirement.
1987 - Jerry Smith, Washington Redskins, 1965-1977; dies of AIDS. Never came out but Kopay claims he was first lover.
1988 - Dave Pallone, National League Umpire; claims real reason he was fired was for coming out to National League president Bart Giametti.
1992 - Roy Simmons, NFL offensive guard, 1979-1983; comes out on The Phil Donahue Show.
1993 - David Slattery, general manager Washington Redskins, 1970s; comes out.
1993 - Glenn Burke, MLB outfielder. Claims the Oakland Athletics released him in 1979 because management suspected he was gay.

So ESPN confirms that as of 1998 there had been no gay athletes out of closet while playing. Though it is obvious they are there.

Of COURSE the A’s released Glenn Burke because he was gay. Baseball teams ALWAYS keep .228 hitters around, if they’re straight.

I would say it’s reason c). With locker rooms and everyone showering together, teammates are far more familiar with each other than normal co-workers. The athletes don’t want to feel like they’re being sized-up while dressing or showering, so they generally won’t tolerate gay teammates. Thus, gay athletes know that their career in team sports depends on staying in the closet.