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Equality All-Stars: MLB’s all-gay-friendly team

April 30, 2013

jasoncollinssi042913

You probably know by now that NBA free agent Jason Collins made history, and courageously opened himself up to all manner of “ball-handling” jokes from the brilliant comedic minds who populate sports website comment sections, by coming out publicly as a gay man yesterday. Sports stars, celebrities, and even the President (virtually none of whom, oddly enough, so much as cocked their heads when Brittney Griner acknowledged her lesbianism a week earlier, but that’s another blog post) have reacted with statements, tweets, and phone calls in support of Collins.

Thus far, MLB players haven’t quite kept up with their NBA counterparts, and a fair number of their public comments have been of the “it’s not up to me to judge” or “that doesn’t matter in the locker room” variety, but enough of them have spoken up that we could field a pretty good LGBT-friendly team—and some of the most vocal allies have been ones I’d never have rooted for in the past.

With the understanding that there was stiff competition at some positions and not much to choose from at others, and that there certainly are, and will be, other statements that have been and will be made that aren’t on the list, I present to you the 2013 All-Gay-Friendly Team:

Starting pitcher: C.J. Wilson, Angels. C.J. lost me a while back with his smug attitude and his nasty prank on Mike Napoli, and those Head and Shoulders commercials aren’t doing anything to win me back, but I have to give him props for responding at length and completely supportively to Collins’s coming-out essay. “It’s very courageous of him….You know what was really sad about the whole thing? Reading the comments on that article,” he said. “Ignorance. Blazing ignorance. It’s just terrible….Sports is about equality.”

Righty relief pitcher: LaTroy Hawkins, Mets. “Everybody knows somebody who’s gay,” said the 39-year-old hurler, who also called Collins’s testimony “phenomenal.” “If you can’t deal with it in 2013, you need to go somewhere and hide in a cave. It’s there. Whether you like it or not, it doesn’t affect you. So why judge it?”

Lefty relief pitcher: Jerry Blevins, A’s. “I think it’s great for the landscape of team sports,” said Blevins, who was rewarded by the cosmos for his progressiveness by having to pitch and hit in the A’s 19-inning win over the Angels. “It’s a shame it hasn’t come sooner. I give him my highest respect for being the one to come out, it can’t be easy. My hope is that kids see this and say, ‘I can be myself and do whatever I want to do.’ ”

Catcher: Mike Napoli, Red Sox. I’ve yet to find any catchers voicing unbridled support for LGBT equality—make your own jokes there—but Napoli didn’t do too badly: “I have gay friends. My cousin is gay. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with it. It’s accepted everywhere now; it wouldn’t bother me.”

First base: Nick Swisher, Indians. Swisher wasted no time tweeting his support for Collins, saying, “I will always support people for being who they are. Happy for @jasoncollins34 that he can lead an honest life.”

Second base: Brandon Phillips, Reds. Look, as a loyal Cards fan, this pains me, but Phillips continues to demonstrate that he’s basically a good dude. “More power to him,” he said in a clubhouse interview yesterday. “I don’t judge anybody for anything. I’m happy for him for coming out and wanting to live his life like that. I wish him all the best. I have no problem with anything like that. That doesn’t bother me. Hopefully, he gets a job and gets to keep on playing in his career.”

Third base: David Wright, Mets. Though some of Wright’s remarks stuck to the safe “all that matters is whether you’re any good” theme, he added enough genuine support to make the team, and anyway, I can’t find another third baseman who qualifies. “If you can play the game, I don’t care the color of your skin, sexual orientation,” he told USA Today. “Come on in, welcome. A teammate’s a teammate. Hopefully, this allows individuals to address (the issue). I’m happy for (Collins). You applaud how brave he must be to come out and make that announcement.”

Shortstop: Darwin Barney, Cubs. “Everyone is connected (to the gay community) in some way, whether it’s a family member or a friend. I have family members that are (gay). That’s the way of life and I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal,” said Barney, who took part in the Cubs’ “It Gets Better” video a couple of years back. “You’re allowed to be black, white, gay, straight, whatever….That’s the beauty of this country, and if there is any discrimination there, it’s a sad thing.”

Left field: Ryan Braun, Brewers. The embattled MVP gets extra points for distinguishing between “tolerance” and “acceptance”—which, as LGBT folks and our allies know, isn’t just a technicality (see what I did there?). “I think it’s great,” Braun said. “For all of us as athletes, we should all be tolerant. Not only tolerant, but accepting. I think it’s a great thing. I think everybody should be encouraged to be comfortable and confident in who they are, and I think hopefully it’s the first step in the right direction for anybody that’s going through some of the same things that he went through. It’s definitely a step in a positive direction I think for all athletes, and hopefully for society in general.”

Center field: Jay Bruce, Reds. Bruce hasn’t played much center field for a while, but I’m sure he’ll take one for the team in the name of equality. “I’m happy for him. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live your whole professional life basically in secrecy,” Bruce said. “I don’t think anyone should let society pigeonhole them into thinking something is right or wrong….I’m happy he did it for himself.”

Right field: Jonny Gomes, Red Sox. Gomes wins the prize for most colorful (if mildly convoluted) support of Collins and his gay brethren: “I’m a firm believer in if people fight for our country, they can play sports, you know? If you’re good and you have a boyfriend or you’re married and you fight for our country, you should be able to play a game. Obviously, with my antics, I don’t give a [expletive] about what people think about me. I care what 25 guys care about me inside here. If somebody wants to come out, who gives a [expletive], you know?”

Designated hitter: Jason Giambi, Indians. (Yes, we’re playing AL-style just this once.) “I applaud him,” Giambi said of Collins. “There’s a place for a gay baseball player. I know this is a good ol’ boys’ game but it’s definitely changed. Society has changed. People have opened themselves up more to it.” Nicely put, Jason! Hey, as long as you’re being a progressive warrior, how about having a talk with the front office about Chief Wahoo?

Follow me on Twitter! Please! I’m @blogoftheirown.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 9:29 am

    Nick Swisher is with the Indians now.

  2. April 30, 2013 11:48 am

    Why is this news? Everyone knows someone gay. We get it. So what? I am female, heterosexual and I like pancakes. Is that news? Then neither is the news that a bassketball player is gay. I don’t care what you do in your bedroom. I don’t care what Collins does in his bedroom. And I don’t think it should be on the cover of SI. Be who you are–why does the world have to know?

    • April 30, 2013 1:43 pm

      Hi BJ! Yep, it would be big news for you to come out of the closet as a pancake-lover if 1) there had never been a pancake lover in a major American sport before; 2) the U.S. had had a long and ugly history of discrimination against pancake lovers; 3) societal attitudes about pancake lovers had, in the past decade or so, begun to shift markedly away from prejudice and toward acceptance equality, but the sporting world had lagged embarrassingly behind; and 4) pancake-loving still had such a stigma attached to it that young children, upon discovering that they loved pancakes (or were perceived to love pancakes by their peers), faced the dangers of being bullied at school, kicked out of their homes, attacked on the streets, and/or driven to the point of suicidality. Then Sports Illustrated would run a big cover photo of you proudly seated at an IHOP, unapologetically holding aloft a forkful of flapjacks, and we’d all rally around you in support and celebration. So….see why these things aren’t the same?

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