Time to own up to the homoeroticism (and homophobia) within the NBA

I was sitting at the AT&T Center minutes before the opening tipoff (after which the Lakers decimated the Spurs) talking to a reporter and photographer for a local weekly. It was the first time we had met and we subsequently traded business cards.

“I thought you said your name was Ryan,” he asked with a puzzled look on his face.

“It is,” I explained. “I write under the pseudonym, ‘Rudy Gayby.’”

Pseudonyms are tricky. They can come off as arrogant and superfluous or worse. I arrived at “Rudy Gayby” because I felt it captured the confluence of my sports biography: 1) Basketball is my favorite sport and Rudy Gay is an active player for the Memphis Grizzlies. 2) I am a “gayby” — a term coined to describe children of same-sex parents.

In school, my biggest fear was being asked to create a family tree. Turning in a tree with two moms wasn’t necessarily a problem, but having to present it to peers who could be downright mean was scary. If a kid could be tormented for farting in class, what would happen to the kid with gay parents? I didn’t want to find out.

By the time I graduated from high school, I could count on one hand the number of friends and peers I had told that my parents were lesbians.

Granted, using a pseudonym still hides my true identity. Nonetheless, I found the simple act of putting the word “gayby” out there to be a liberating experience, particularly on a sports page.

When it comes to sports, the topic of homosexuality is consistently hushed. Hearing an honest dialogue about homosexuality in sports is as likely as finding Donald Trump heralded in a hair magazine.

John Amaechi is the only player in the history of the NBA to openly say that he is gay. In 2007, the then-retired Amaechi came out in his book, Man in the Middle, which chronicles a professional career that ended with the Utah Jazz in 2003.

“I am not a hero nor am I special in any regard,” said Amaechi in his first television interview. “I am simply doing what a good person of conscience would do, which is making people aware that gay people don’t just look like Jack from Will and Grace, and that they don’t want to jump your bones every occasion, and that some are camp and some are butch, and that we’re different and we’re useful and we are here.”

Four years later, I’m still waiting for the “we” of that declaration to stand up in the sports ranks.

I don’t expect professional athletes to come forth publicly and explicitly announce their sexual orientation. Ultimately, the only thing a professional athlete owes me is effort on the field or court, not truth outside of the playing sphere (they can’t all be San Antonio Spurs).

That being said, professional athletics are a complete contradiction on the point of homosexuality.

Where else but pro sports can you find so many self-identified straight males constantly mesmerized by the sweaty, sculpted physiques of their male colleagues? Why do we gloss over Charles Barkley’s gawking at Blake Griffin’s body during the dunk contest, but we need online forums to discuss the ignorantly perceived dangers of donning a Rudy Gay jersey?

One male appreciating another male’s form doesn’t make them gay — it makes them human.

On March 13, the United Kingdom’s government launched a charter aimed at eradicating homophobia from the country’s professional sports. The Olympics committee and the governing bodies of football (soccer), tennis, cricket, and rugby all agreed to the charter’s tenets of “fairness, equality, respect, and dignity.”

Not surprisingly, that story is buried in the headlines.

I really don’t know what to do, but reopening the conversation is important. Buying and proudly wearing a Rudy Gay jersey might be a good start.

Ryan, aka Rudy Gayby, covers the Spurs for the Current in this bi-weekly column and at blogs.sacurrent.com. Contact him at [email protected].


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