"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" May Still Be Very Well Alive in the World of Pro Sports
In September of 2011, President Barack Obama officially repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) — the military policy that prevented gay, lesbian, and transgender people from serving openly in the military. But is the idea behind “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” really just a thing of the past now? Many argue: no.
The idea behind DADT is still very much alive, with many arguing it has moved from the battlefield to the football field.
Trying Not to be “Different”
"I would police my behavior," said Wade Davis, a former football player. After being told by another player that guys stay away from those who are “different,” a code word Davis realized meant gay, Davis knew he would never be able to be himself around his future teammates. That’s because he was one of the “different” guys they were unknowingly talking about.
"I would re-create a story that probably never even happened just to make guys think that I was as hyper-masculine as they were. I had kind of honed in on my skill of telling these fantastic lies,” said Davis.
It wasn’t until eight years after an injury ended his football career that Davis finally felt comfortable coming out to people beyond his close friends and family. Over the years, he has used his platform as an openly gay athlete to advocate for more acceptance within all pro sports.
Gay Athletes — They Exist
To date, there have been 11 known gay players in NFL’s nearly 100-year history. Last year, former Patriots and Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan announced that he is gay. This made him the seventh gay athlete to have played in a professional NFL game. Several other players have come out at NFL training camps. However, none of them ever played in an official NFL season game.
Arguably, the most well-known gay football player is Michael Sam. His name and story quickly became national news after he came out just before the 2014 NFL Draft. After playing in all four preseason games for the St. Louis Rams, he was ultimately released and never returned to football.
Unfortunately, the reasons why people don’t want to be open about their sexuality are anything but shocking. While the general public is more accepting of things like same-sex marriage than ever before, the world is still not always an accepting place for LGBT people.
Back in 2012, New England Patriots' linebacker, Brandon Spikes, joked about being homophobic in a tweet. He wrote, "...just like I'm arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders but I'd still scream if I found one in my bathtub."
Torii Hunter, a former Angels outfielder, once said he believed an “out” teammate could divide the team and that, for religious reasons, he would personally be uncomfortable with it.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many professional athletes choose to come out after their professional careers have ended, including athletes like Redskins running back David Kopay, Dodgers outfielder Billy Bean, and NBA star John Amaechi.