By MELISSA FITZGERALD-LEHRMAN, AP Gay sex stories and moneyball stories are the new gold and platinum in the world of sports storytelling.
They are often written about with such confidence that they almost seem normal.
When ESPN SportsCenter, ABC Sports and ESPN’s College GameDay feature a gay or lesbian athlete in a college football game, you can be certain that many of the viewers in attendance will know exactly what to expect.
But are these stories true?
How can you tell?
The answers are simple: you can’t.
And yet they are, and they are not.
“You want to know how to tell a story, right?”
ESPN senior sports writer John Breitenbach said.
“The only thing that really matters is that it’s true.
That’s the only thing.”
The truth is that most of the people who have seen a gay athlete in action on the football field know very little about the subject.
Gay athletes do exist, and that’s not a good thing.
There’s no way to know whether they’re really gay or whether they are pretending.
But if they are a gay person, then they need to be told the truth.
The truth has to be made known to the public so that people can make informed decisions about their sports fandom.
In fact, it’s not so much the truth that’s important, Breitensbach said, but the way that the truth is being told.
When a person is gay or a lesbian, it can be hard to tell them the truth about their sexual orientation.
“It can be difficult for gay or gay-identified people to come out,” Breiteningbach said of being gay or straight.
“People tend to just keep it private.
But the truth needs to be out there, and there are times when people need to hear it.”
For some, it means learning that the public is not going to accept them if they tell the truth, which is why they might choose to conceal their sexual identity and come out publicly.
It’s also the case that there’s a stigma attached to being openly gay, which can lead to ostracism, bullying, rejection and even violence.
If you’re gay or you’re lesbian, you’re not likely to be the most well-liked or well-respected member of your sports fandom, which makes telling the truth even harder.
“Some people don’t want to be in the public eye,” Breiheit said.
But telling the true story about gay athletes isn’t just a question of whether they deserve it or not.
It can be a question about who they are as people, who they love, and how they see themselves as individuals.
“There’s a lot of people out there who are very proud of their sexual preference and want to make sure they’re represented in sports,” Breitonbach said about his audience.
“They want to see the sport of baseball and the NBA and the NFL be better.
They want to hear that the NFL is not perfect.
They feel like they can’t just be themselves.”
“It’s the story that you tell that really helps to shape who you are as a person,” Breitzer said.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to be gay, but if you are, then telling the story about a gay player who is gay is vital.
“I think that for many gay people, that’s the biggest thing in sports that they’re missing,” Breiter said.
He’s not alone.
The NFL has come a long way in terms of inclusion since the league first created a policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2000.
But that change only happened after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which increased penalties for sexual harassment and assault.
It took decades for gay players and their supporters to get the message that the game is no longer about showing off, Breiter explained.
And even though the NFL and other sports have gotten much better at identifying and punishing homophobic players, they’re still failing to reach out to gay athletes and their allies.
“When it comes to gay and lesbian athletes, they’ve got to get to know each other,” Breifheit said of gay athletes.
“That’s what we need to do to be successful in sports.”
The NFL was one of the first sports leagues to recognize and support the rights of gay and transgender people, but there are still challenges.
Breiiton, who has worked with the NFL on LGBTQ inclusion, said he has heard stories about homophobic players.
“One of my own friends who is a big fan of the NFL was the head coach of a high school team, and one day his wife came to the office,” he said.
Breitenedbach said he told the head football coach, who was supportive.
“We told him that our league is a great place to grow, but we don’t know that much about him,” Breicht said.