An Outlier Amongst Outliers
(To read Part One click here)
I am calling a press conference tomorrow……..
An NBA superstar at the door frame of the closet; one step and I am out. In 24 hours my spike-trending @name will detonate the building that houses Twitter’s servers. Because when a worldwide A list hero in the I Love This Game and Where Amazing Happens league says he is gay, it changes everything.
Born bigger, stronger and physically tougher than 99% of you, and with motor skills and intelligence quotient to be one of the fifteen best human beings on our planet when it comes to putting a ball through a ten foot high metal ring, I am a statistical outlier. The amount of money corporations pay me for these attributes is obscene. Even more x-rated is how the NBA, my team’s owner, our city, global sponsors, ESPN, ABC and TNT, and every basketball-related cottage industry in the world all have first class seats on my gravy train. Write a 1, and add zeros. Not seven or eight. $1,000,000,000 is what my brand is worth.
So why announce that I am a homosexual male athlete playing on a professional team sport in the U.S. of A.? Because I have had enough. For me and my family, for my fellow teammates past and present, and for future generations, I have had enough.
My sexual orientation is hidden from you 25 hours a day. I am a walking cardboard cut-out of a caricature of my true self, a superhero of duplicity. I peddle dishonesty from dawn to dusk; fabrications to cover falsehoods that conceal untruths. I have 50 pages of iPhone notes detailing what, when and to whom I have lied with bold face. It is exhausting……
You want to know the irony? I am more masculine than you. When it comes to intimacy I don’t like soft, slow or feminine anything. You will find nary a ruffle nor a rainbow assortment of popped collared Izods in my closet. My tweed, chenille and silk are a function of high fashion not high heels. There is zero flounce to my bounce.
The difference between you and me is hardwiring. When we enter a cocktail party, 500 million years of Darwinian evolution takes over. You are genetically programmed to hone in on the most fertile, or sweetest, or smartest, or most handsome or maybe dumbest hetero-counterpart in the room, and that happens in four seconds flat. My mechanism is just as impressive. I level my crosshairs across the crowd to make eye contact with Adonis’s chisel-faced big brother. It has always been that way for me. What about you?
In high school I devised a nomenclature to protect my private life. Code Red secrets are harmless – for people that cannot keep secrets. Code Black is for family, my agent, trusted friends, a couple of beat writers and three teammates. The highest level of security clearance is Code Magnum. Magnum is solely for the ears of my mother, my best friend Jaybird who has been shoulder-to-shoulder with me since we were 12 years old, and every past sexual partner I have ever had. Magnum was Fort Knox. Now, I am not sure. The sanctum of silence has grown. My first sexual experience was in high school, with an all-state swimmer who lingered in the locker room after my teammates filtered out. That afternoon Magnum was born. In college there were more. And during the first five years in the league? Good god, I am a finely tuned physical specimen in my sexual prime without a significant other. Beautiful men and women of all sizes, shapes and colours want to dine out with me, and later, dine in on me. Swap places, what would you do? You know what I did? Not nearly as much as you think; most of the free prostitution that oozes around the NBA is female; and no I did not. Lies of logistics are one thing, emotional and physical deceit is a line I will not cross. Early on I decided guy groupies were also a no fly zone – Code Magnum does not have a blackmail-disguised-as-bullshit-detector.
Casual sex was rare and filled with double-agent capers; cryptic texts, neutered phone calls, baseball caps and Oakley wraparounds. I was James Bond hunting the mysterious ingénue, Solange, through the streets of Paris, an exhilarating and pathetic pastime. My hook-up rule was simple: Romeo had to have as much to lose as I did. You know how hard that is? The menu consisted of well-heeled married professionals and closeted Gordon Gecko wannabees.
How many of those surgeons, attorneys or Wall Street masters of the universe in my Code Magnum circle are presently considering cashing in a mountain of chips with one phone call – Tiger Woods tabloid style? All it takes is one high-flying starfucker getting caught with his pants down financially or literally and Code Magnum is breached. My cellphone will ring at 3am. I will hear the gravelly voice with whispered extortion on his breath. He will put forward the proposal that I increase my staff payroll by one person and $500K per year, with an annual review. This game I am playing is rigged, my flank is always exposed.
But fear of being outed is not the reason I am here today. For other pros it is every reason. I survive that phone call. The permutations and implications of the press conference the next morning have played out in my mind for years. I have spent hundreds of hours researching the historical record of which athletes came out, how the moment unfolded and what occurred next. Why it worked for some and brought death upon others. I have a PhD in homopro-ology.
If we sifted through a list of one hundred gay athletes over the past 100 years across twenty sports, you would not be aware of most of them. Recognizable names in women’s tennis are Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Gigi Fernandez, Hana Mandlíková, Lisa Raymond, Amélie Mauresmo and, as we are talking gay and not LGBT, let´s asterisk Reneé Richards.
You will recollect Greg Louganis (diving), Bill Tilden (tennis), Emile Griffin, Mark Leduc and Christy Martin (boxing), Diana Nyad (swimming), Brian Orser, Toller Cranston, Rudy Galindo and Johnny Weir (figure skating), Patty Sheehan (golf) and the World Wrestling Federation’s first Intercontinental Champion, Pat Patterson.
All of these athletes are from individual sports. My Q Score in the gay community takes a walloping with this next statement: Homosexual athletes playing individual sports have fewer humiliations to overcome than those on team sports. And to throw the entire kerosene drum on the fire: Gay female athletes are less scrutinized than their male counterparts, which is like saying of all the ways to be tortured, having your eyeball pulled out hurts the least.
Before poring over the diabolical numbers of known homosexual males in professional team sports, humour me on Martina Navratilova’s unrivalled accomplishments as an out athlete in the prime of her sporting career. In 1981 Navratilova comes out as a lesbian athlete. A few months earlier Billie Jean was dragged out of the closet by her eccentric and bitter husband. By then Billie Jean was thirty-seven years old and a forehand volley away from retirement. Did Billie Jean’s outing create a slipstream for Martina’s proclamation? Not so much. This was the early eighties. A mysterious mass murderer called AIDS was leaving bodies on the riverbank. These were times more forbidding than usual for homosexuals. Martina reckons ten million dollars in sponsorship walked out the backdoor. What is that in today’s dollars? Thirty? Forty million? She lost every ancillary revenue stream available to a superstar pro athlete. The only way she was going to pay the rent was to win tournaments. And, sweet mother of god, did that woman pile up first prize winners’ checks for the next twenty years.
Previous to coming out, Martina had won 11 Grand Slams across singles, doubles and mixed doubles. What happened next? 48 more Slams including 7 Wimbledon singles titles (9 in all) and the career Grand Slam (singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Majors, i.e., the “Grand Slam Boxed Set”). Martina was the first and only athlete to come out during her peak prime years as the dominant superstar in her sport. Historians will dissect the pantheon of social giants in modern professional sports and duly place Martina alongside the likes of Mohammed Ali, Jesse Owens, Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe.
Together with Martina, a couple of male team sport athletes deserve a moment of recognition.
The late Glenn Burke was the first and only Major League Baseball player known to have been out to his teammates and team owners during his professional career – but not to the American public.
Burke said, “By 1978 I think every one of my teammates knew.” Former Dodgers team captain Davey Lopes said, “No one cared about his lifestyle.” Burke told the New York Times that `Prejudice drove me out of baseball, but I wasn’t changing.´ A year before his death in 1995, he said, “My mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype . . . I think it worked.” In the greatest of ironies, Burke is attributed with creating the celebratory high five. Here’s one from us to you, Glenn Lawrence Burke.
John Amaechi is my friend and the only NBA basketball player to come out as a homosexual after his career ended. He laid the paving slabs that I stand on. Post-retirement John puts on his armour every morning and fights for diversity across Europe and the US. He uses his mind as a rapier to carve up public bigots and homophobes worldwide. Study up on John, you will be better off for having done so.
Back to the question; how many male athletes have come out publicly while playing a professional American team sport? Drumroll please:
NBA (63 years): None.
NFL Football (92 years): None.
NHL Hockey (95 years): None.
MLB (110 years): None.
Roughly fifty thousand male athletes across a century of professional American team sports and not one crossed the line while still suiting up for games. And…. so….. but…. why?..!…….?…
Answer: Would you voluntarily allow yourself to be passed through the old woodshop class bandsaw at your high school – and witness every facet of your life sheared off and bled out?
So why will I? The very same motive that drives every great and powerful story since the history of our existence: Love.
His name is `Fred’.
I met Fred 6 months ago at the ESPY’s. He is rock hard and rock solid. Smart as Socrates and big enough to rest a beer on Hercules’s head. Just my type.
Our relationship started in Code Magnum. Six months later and we are less discreet with our P.D.A. At least two journalists amongst the NBA press corps know about Fred but choose not to blow us up. The ever-expanding viper pit of tabloid casheratti will not be so judicious.
Fred and I want out. Our families want us out. Unless we move to Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont or Washington, D.C., or get accepted into Oregon’s Coquille or Washington State’s Suquamish Indian tribes, we cannot legally get married. I will repeat that: eighty-five percent of the states in our great Union will not honor my marriage to the person I love.
Same story with adopting children and my rights in the workplace. I will have to move to the Northeast, the Pacific Coast or a handful of other states to have a family with my married partner. And because I ply my trade in NBA arenas across the country and half of those teams could fire me or not hire me for being openly gay, I will be forced to stand before the Supreme Court to defend myself against hidden legal bigotry. This is a scratch on the surface, we have not even touched social ostracism or personal safety.
Are there any lingering questions as to why no one precedes me? Have you re-asked yourself why I am even contemplating my next step? Good.
With all due respect to homosexual athletes over the decades, I present myself as a different visceral being. My DNA is of poet-warriors from the ancient past. I am armed with NASA rocket fuel in my bank account, global iconic clout, social media as my Pegasus, Intel Core processors between my ears and titanium cylindricals between my legs. The times are right and I am the outlier amongst outliers. Do you get the full grasp of what I am saying? When I come out the deck of cards gets restacked. In my favour. We will win.
When the safety and privacy of my family comes into question, we will win. My mother and Jaybird and Fred’s parents have our backs until the end. And public sentiment equals public power, which means 99% of the lunatics with idle hands will skulk into their shadows. For the remaining 1% of our country’s sociopaths, I will purchase a security force that makes Obama’s Secret Service detail look like The Village People. My loved ones will be safe.
Good friends and some family will abandon me to protect themselves, their families and their bank balances from social mutilation and net worth reprisals. This heartache I will not easily quell. My world will at first shrink, but, over time, be enriched by fellow social warriors looking for kinship in our battle. And along the way, Fred, my mother and Jaybird, always those three, will be my bedrock.
Teammates from this moment until my retirement will be worn haggard by foolish questions about showers and sweat. My skills on the court, influence in the pressroom and loyalty off the court will create an army of eleven teammates at my side. If there are any dissidents in the locker-room, they will run the cost-benefit analysis with their handlers and choose to toe the line. We will win.
As to what my coach and owner think about me as a man, it will always be a guessing game of which the answer has no relevance. If they happen to suffer from polluted morality or greed, I will turn those character defects against them like an Aikido master discarding drunken sailors.
What about my safety? Performing in the round in front of twenty thousand people 3 nights a week and 9 months a year for the next ten years? We will win. Our league has a sophisticated nose for sniffing dollar signs. The NBA will become best buddies with homosexuals in the workplace. They will demand heightened security where fans will leave their metal at home before taking a seat at one of my performances. For the reprobates that are ignorant enough to yell epitaphs, we will win. They will be shouted down by the majority and escorted out of the show post-haste.
Remember the one followed by nine zeros? What about that money? No-brainer. Times have changed. Multi-national corporations will be emboldened to choose my side. It will make for more robust quarterly earnings reports and smiling shareholders. My personal brand will transform itself from high-tops and electrolytes to cars and coffee. I have run the numbers, within 36 months my endorsement deals will double.
And if I am wrong? If I should lose at any stage of this journey, we will still have won. Because my gravestone will not mention first ballot Hall of Fame induction or billions of dollars and fans. It will instead be inscribed with the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“A principle is a principle. And in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practice. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.”
I am the outlier amongst outliers, and tomorrow I will announce that my principle is my principle…
(With special acknowledgement to a conversation with John Amaechi. I first read Gandhi´s quote in the Forward of John´s book, Man in the Middle)
Filed under: Sports
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