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Gay hockey shocker!!

Timothy Kincaid

November 25th, 2009

There is shocking news in the hockey world this week. A young man who is the son of a team’s general manager, the brother of another team’s scout, and the student manager of his college’s hockey team came out. That wasn’t the shocker.

What has been surprising to me is that no one involved seems to have reacted negatively.

His team responds with acceptance and by trying to cut back on gay slurs in the locker room. His coaches praise him for his contributions. And his father, Mr. Testosterone, has him fly into town so they can go to gay pride together.

But it isn’t just those that know Brendan Burke who are supportive. The news reporters hoping for a Big Controversy were unable to find one. (Globe) The most they could come up with was imagined unspoken uncomfortability.

All of the players said it would not be a problem in today’s NHL for someone on their team to publicly declare his sexual orientation. They said they did not think a gay player would face any harassment from his teammates, although the topic was not one they were willing to discuss for long.

In the Hockey News, a columnist predicts that soon this will be no big deal at all.

In hockey terms, it will be very soon when openly gay students begin to try out for and make high school teams. Their buddies will have known and become accustomed to that fact and it will be no big deal. If openly gay players are good enough, they’ll move on to major junior, college, the American League and the NHL.

All of which is wonderful. And surprising.

But what does it mean?

Well, it certainly isn’t the case that hockey, or any other major sport, is now a welcome space for gay athletes. Nor are locker rooms safe from gay slurs or homophobic banter.

But the significant change that this story illustrates is that overt public homophobia is now no longer seen as acceptable – even in the most masculine of communities.

Gay-hostile comments will continue to trumpet themselves through locker rooms due to bigotry, religion, stereotypes, or ignorance, but the idea of homophobia is no longer welcome. Gay people may still be subjected to abuse, but as with racism or religion-based discrimination, it is no longer socially acceptable to openly and publicly embrace homophobia, even in the hockey locker room.

At times it can be frustrating waiting for our fellow citizens to stop making up excuses for discrimination and unequal rights. It can seem disheartening to watch yet another state give in to its fears and biases. But stories like this remind us that the war is over and we have won.

Yes we have battles to fight, and we may frequently lose, but our biggest obstacle has been surpassed. We have convinced our neighbors that it is a shameful thing to mistreat gay people.

And that is a shocking thing indeed.

Comments

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Burr
November 25th, 2009 | LINK

As a Tampa Bay Lightning fan I’m especially happy to hear support from my favorite players.

Of course most professional hockey players are from Canada, where equality is fully enshrined into law. Most of them are real class acts and aren’t heavily influenced by bible thumping the way football players are, so it doesn’t surprise me at all. I think the main thing holding pro hockey players back from coming out is the reaction of fans, not the locker room.

There are closeted NHLers out there as this OutSports story tells..

http://outsports.com/entertainment/20050218gumbybookexcerpt.htm

AdrianT
November 25th, 2009 | LINK

I think sports personalitis coming out will do so much for addressing homophobia.

In Ireland there has been a similar story – the main sport there is Hurling, and one of the big stars, Donal og Cusack, came out 2 months ago. He has received loads of support from fans and players, the latter of whom just regard it as an insult that they are even asked if they accept Donal as he is. See this link for an interview with him on Irish TV – the stuff on his homosexuality comes about 9 minutes in, it’s in 3 parts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT5DUTmNfXU

Timothy (TRiG)
November 26th, 2009 | LINK

Hurling is, indeed, probably the biggest sport in the country (and a great game too). It’s played by counties, so local loyalty runs high. Donal Og is from Cork, one of the more successful teams. When that story broke it was pretty big news.

TRiG.

Marlene
November 27th, 2009 | LINK

It’s great to read of Brendan’s acceptance by those around him. It’s not surprising of the acceptance, especially when you have a coach who stresses team cohesion over individual glory.

There’s two links I have with Brendan (purely through a hockey fan).

First, I’m a huge Detroit Red Wings fan, and when his dad was GM of the Anaheim Ducks, the teams are in the same conference as the Wings and took them out of the playoffs on their way to the Cup on ’07.

Branden’s college, Miami University, plays in the same league, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association as my local team, Bowling Green State University. If there was a way I could afford to attend the next BGSU/Miami game I would just to say hi to the young man.

I logged on the ESPN article, and there are surprisingly alot of supportive comments there, and the ones making negative comments are appropriately chastized.

It’s sad that in pro baseball, basketball and basketball a gay player can’t come out until he retires.

To bootstrap to what Burr commented on, it’s due to the all-American aspect of the game and the way religion is deeply infested in those three sports. Here’s hoping the more international baseball and basketball becomes, the less homophobia there is.

It also doesn’t help that the heads of all three leagues refuses to make a concerted effort to drive home the point that anti-gay slurs are just as immoral as racial slurs, and has yet to create a support group for gay players.

It also didn’t help that when the NBA’s Daniel Stern undermined a supportive rival womens’ pro basketball league to begin the WNBA, they forced the players to attend *charm school* and femmed them up (ala A League of Their Own) so they wouldn’t be seen as lesbians. At the same time, the league told the teams NOT to market to lesbian fans as well! This is why I will never ever support the WNBA.

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