Dear Straight Professional Athletes (and yes, the gay ones should read this too):
There's a lot of off-season in the air right now! Most players in the NFL have been off since January, and Major League Baseball players have been off since last fall. Teams in the NBA and NHL head into playoffs in less than two months, and those guys smell an off-season coming soon too.
There's no need to tell us how hard you actually work in the off-season because we've already heard about it, and we believe you. It's part of why so many of us look up to you. You're hard workers and leaders even when you're not on the field or court.
So in addition to all that other hard work this off-season, let me suggest something else that you can do. It's something that, just like all of your other workouts and training programs, is probably going to make you a better player and a better teammate -- something that may just make your team perform better and win more often.
Years ago we started learning that the attitudes of young Americans about gay people were changing dramatically. Americans under 40 have seen out, gay people at most levels of community, government, and media for over half our lives. We've seen them having children or relationships to going to proms together or appearing on TV.
We also know that athletes in particular are some of the most diverse groups on many college campuses and that they are supporting their gay teammates and classmates in record numbers. So are many of your straight teammates in the pros.
To be clear, most of your teammates still seem to talk too much shit about gay people, but more and more, what they're not saying is that gay people and gay teammates don't deserve to play or wouldn't receive support. Better yet, some of the world's top athletes are already way out ahead on this. They're telling anyone who will listen that being a gay teammate isn't an issue -- integrity is. They're right.
So here's what I think you should do. This off-season, as you break down every detail of your workouts, your teammates, and your games, think about how many gay people you really know and think about how good you really are with them, how it's not an issue for you. Then think sportsmanship. Every season you're asked to deal with your teammates' family struggles, financial ups and downs, physical and emotional strains, and you do it because as teammates you've been taught to look out for your own. So start looking out for your own.
Right now you're letting college and high school athletes be the strong ones. You're asking them to be the heroes, the influential ones, the leaders. I promise that they're more than happy to share the limelight with you and they could use your support. They deserve it.
America's young people and America's sports fans know there are gay and lesbian athletes at all levels of sports. They have said they will support them when they come out. They've said those athletes would be courageous for coming out.
You want the best players on your team, and you want to play the best players. Start telling your teammates, coaches, and fans that you support your gay teammates. Don't worry if you don't know any yet -- you've got them, and they want your help.
You've gone to college, traveled the country, worked with countless professionals, and had thousands of fans, gay and straight. You already know you have gay teammates and you're fine with it. In fact, you're great with it. Now you need to tell everyone else about it.
Spend time this off-season putting in the work to make next season the best it can be. Work hard in the weight room, on the field, on the court, and in the classroom. But also start talking to your friends and teammates about your feelings on gay people.
I guarantee that by this fall, when the NHL, NFL, and NBA seasons are getting started, a few more heroes and leaders on your team just may be playing their best game ever because of you.