Wade Davis: Closeted Gay Players Not ‘Chicken’


A few weeks ago, just before the new year, I shared a gay history flashback in the form of a post about Gay Comix, the short-lived, late-70s/early-80s periodical that covered, with tongue in cheek, the burgeoning gay rights movement in illustration.

In that post, I mentioned that a few issues have been reprinted in Robert Triptow's Gay Comics, a collection of LGBT cartoons from that era. My copy of Triptow's anthology came last week, but I didn't had a chance to review it until today.

The first illustration I randomly opened to, a mid-70s cartoon by Charles Ortleb and Richard Fiala originally published in the gay newspaper Christopher Street, is posted above. In case the punchline is too blurry, it reads, "Coach Waldman [no relation] passes out xeroxes of an article asserting that only one in ten of his team could possibly be gay."

This gag, sadly, remains relevant today. Despite all the progress LGBT people have made, the mound, the pitch and the rink all remain relatively closed to sexual honesty.

Wade Davis knows this all too well. The former NFL player had to wait until he retired to come out. Since then, he has dedicated his time to making the collective locker room a more welcoming place for gay players. That doesn't mean, however, that he thinks gay players should be chided for not coming out.

In response to ESPN journalist LZ Granderson's claim that closeted players are "chicken," Davis penned a Los Angeles Times op-ed in which he argues that the onus is on straight players and fans to create a more inclusive environment:

Coming out, or as I like to say, "inviting in," is an individual process that requires a level of safety and security. In women's sports, a number of gay athletes have disclosed their sexual orientation, including tennis champion Amelie Mauresmo, basketball great Sheryl Swoopes and soccer star Megan Rapinoe. It was interesting how little fallout there was from those announcements. But I suspect that women's sports fans are more accepting, in part because of misguided societal notions about femininity and masculinity.

I don't believe another athlete would try to harm a gay male athlete, but professional sports is still full of people happy to express their disapproval of homosexuality, and coming out requires a supportive environment.

It's been about 40 years since Christopher Street published the above cartoon, but this very well could have been run this morning.