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The Elephant In The Locker Room
January 18, 2014 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Toronto Sports Network aired a three-part series this week called ReOrientation, examining the ongoing shift in the attitude of the 5 major North American sports leagues towards homosexuality: The Culture of Casual Homophobia / The Transition Phase / The Players Speak.
posted by mannequito (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Point of order: it's just The Sports Network, unless you were making a point about Toronto-centric coverage and the fact that it's headquartered in hogtown.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:48 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


"I'm super duper straight and had no idea homophobia hurt people!" That said, I think the bloke did an okay job given that it seemed he'd never really thought about homophobia in sports (at least in the first part).

That said, who made this film with the repeated shower room shots!? Seriously, people?

(Also, it's so weird for me to watch something like this in English and not German.)
posted by hoyland at 12:53 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


At first I didn't really have time to watch this and then I read "repeated shower room shots" and now I'm like okay making time to watch it.
posted by Conspire at 12:59 PM on January 18 [10 favorites]


No, no, they're empty, ominous "you wouldn't want to shower next a gay person, would you?" shower room shots.
posted by hoyland at 1:03 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


sorry to disappoint, Conspire, but it's mostly dripping taps.

It does make it seem like sports is all about being wet and naked.
posted by jb at 1:04 PM on January 18


I have always found it a little weird that, like, so many of the objections were centered around the locker room, and yet nobody thought there was anything particularly weird about creating a social expectation of that much semi-public nudity. I'm not a man, but a major feature of my not wanting to have sex with men is my also not wanting to spend a lot of time around naked men being naked myself. So I'm always like--I don't understand why we're trying to somehow Preserve the Sanctity of the Locker Room instead of just giving them some shower curtains and a normal human expectation of privacy?
posted by Sequence at 1:07 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


The shower-room shots are annoying but focusing on that is a derail of a pretty interesting set of videos.

It's possible that the answer to the question of 'where are all the gay players in sports' is: 'you yelled f***** at them until they quit, years and years ago'.

I was inexplicably kicked off of my cross country team in high school and it didn't occur to me for a few years that it was probably our born-again Christian coach's response to my coming out. The truth is, there probably aren't that many gay professional sports players now in comparison to the total population because the atmosphere is so toxic. The next generation is going to be full of gay professional athletes who benefited from our asking the questions now and changing attitudes for the better.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:11 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


Part three is the best of the three, I think. I do kind of feel like there's this awkward element to the whole thing where the people making the film aren't really quite prepared to talk about homophobia in sports or something, so the pieces are kind of stilted. But the fact they could even get the two NHL guys on camera is kind of a big deal, which makes me have a little more confidence that the You Can Play project is actually doing something.*

*Though part of me worries those guys are hockey's equivalent of Philipp Lahm, who shows up in every documentary about homophobia in football because no one else is willing. Of course, that still leaves the Bundesliga ahead of England, where the FA all but abandoned its anti-homophobia campaign with the excuse they couldn't find anyone.
posted by hoyland at 1:26 PM on January 18


just giving them some shower curtains and a normal human expectation of privacy?

In high school we once used the girls' change room as a green room for a play. The boys in the cast were astonished to find that it had individual, partitioned showers and were overcome with jealousy. The boys' changeroom shower was a tiled box with multiple showerheads and was never, ever used.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:32 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


It's possible that the answer to the question of 'where are all the gay players in sports' is: 'you yelled f***** at them until they quit, years and years ago'.

I understand your reason for saying this, but people have been yelling that at gay people in ALL professions. So its not like all gay people have been cordoned off in the theater.

The more likely answer is: There are gay people in sports. Some may feel uncomfortable with how rampant homophobia is in sports. Others may be thinking "I ain't no fucking role model, and I don't want to be the poster boy for whatever. My private life is my private life."
posted by hal_c_on at 2:48 PM on January 18


It's possible that the answer to the question of 'where are all the gay players in sports' is: 'you yelled f***** at them until they quit, years and years ago'.


I get what you mean, but... I mean, yes, homophobia probably killed the love a lot of gay sportspeople had for sport, but there are other gay people who compete and are openly gay (although not many), and there are gay people who came out after they retired, because they felt that coming out during their playing career would be impossible, or because they were put under such pressure not to be gay, as well as not to come out as gay, that they tried not to be. Which is the message of a lot of the interviewees in this series, I think - that they spend decades in an atmosphere of constant causal or targeted homophobic abuse and slurs, because they had no other option except walk away from the thing they spent their whole life working towards excellence in, and which pays their mortgages.

There are some hopeful signs, at least - Robbie Rogers, the US soccer player, thought he was going to have to leave football after he came out, and left his British club, Leeds United, but he was picked up by the LA Galaxy. Thomas Hitzlsperger, also a soccer player, waited until retirement, and said that he had only come to terms with being gay a few years ago...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:11 PM on January 18


In this thread and in a recent thread there have been some pretty surprising reactions to public nudity. Public nudity in gendered spaces used to be pretty common. I thought everybody knew that.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:12 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Soccer star, Robbie Rogers, came out and said he was retiring at the same time.
Rogers then became only the second gay footballer in Britain to come out in public. Justin Fashanu, his solitary predecessor, hanged himself in 1998 in Shoreditch, just a short walk from where Rogers now lives.
...
"I was just fearful. I was very fearful how my team-mates were going to react. Was it going to change them? Even though I'd still be the same person would it change the way they acted towards me – when we were in the dressing room or the bus?"
...
It would be incredibly powerful if a gay footballer could face down that hate and abuse – just as black sportsmen like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali stood up to racism in America.

"Sure," Rogers says. "I've thought about that. I might be strong enough but I don't know if that's really what I want. I'd just want to be a footballer. I wouldn't want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you're gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: 'So you're taking showers with guys – how's that?'

"If you're playing well it will be reported as: 'The gay footballer is playing well.' And if you have a bad game it'll be: 'Aw, that gay dude … he's struggling because he's gay.' Fuck it. I don't want to mess with that."
Then he unretired, signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Rogers' epiphany to return to the game came when he spoke to a group of about 500 kids at the Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum in Portland last month.

"I seriously felt like a coward," he tells USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview about his return. "These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I'm 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?"
The times, they are a-changing.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:09 PM on January 18


*Though part of me worries those guys are hockey's equivalent of Philipp Lahm, who shows up in every documentary about homophobia in football because no one else is willing.

The You Can Play project just got an endorsement from Gabe Landeskog of the Avalanche, meaning they now have at least one player affiliated with every team in the league*, and the guys they got are more likely to be the top faces of the teams than the fourth line wingers (although Tommy Wingels is certainly doing his part). Their lineup of endorsers includes members from several Olympic teams (Canada, US, Sweden, Finland and Slovakia).

One thing I do like is how they started with pros making endorsement videos, then that motivated college and now high school teams to make videos as well, which is a nice trickle-down effect. Note that the Landeskog video features him with two high school teams, Mountain Vista from what I understand is a fairly conservative town (in a county that voted 62% in favour of CO's SSM ban in 2006) and Regis Jesuit, which I understand has the word "Jesuit" in their name.

So I don't think it's only a couple of dudes.

*although that's being a little generous, counting Daniel Alfredsson as the only player for both his current Red Wings and former Senators -- but of course players do move.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:40 PM on January 18


So I don't think it's only a couple of dudes.

I mentioned the Philipp Lahm thing not so much because it's exactly the same situation, but because at the start of part three, they talk about how those two guys were the only two they could get to agree to participate and say something like "It's easy to get people to be in PSAs, but not to get them to actually talk." I have only a superficial interest in hockey, so I'm caught between thinking they're taking far more concrete action than other sports, but also worrying that they're making nice videos that aren't actually accomplishing a whole lot, as I don't really know how to judge which it is.
posted by hoyland at 7:57 PM on January 18


In this thread and in a recent thread there have been some pretty surprising reactions to public nudity. Public nudity in gendered spaces used to be pretty common. I thought everybody knew that.

I always get a kick out of those comments too. I've come across them with a high amount of upvotes on Reddit as well. I ran Cross Country for four years and we'd have morning and afternoon practice. So I found myself showering twice a day, on a daily basis, with a bunch of other naked men. More than that, we'd just hang around in the locker room before and after a shower in various stages of undress with each other talking and joking about stuff. There wasn't anything weird or uncomfortable about it. I swear, we'd even shower sometimes if we had the afternoon off.

I've always wondered why there's such a difference in opinion. My own suspicion is that those who are uncomfortable with it really haven't had any exposure to it, like with a sport.
posted by SollosQ at 4:24 AM on January 19


There are gay people in sports. Some may feel uncomfortable with how rampant homophobia is in sports.

Um, really?

I'm not gay, and feel super uncomfortable about rampant homophobia in sports. It's outside of my imagination that some gay folks may feel comfortable about said rampant homophobia.
posted by el io at 6:08 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Homeboy Trouble, I looked at that list and it appears that there are 4 teams where the players listed no longer play for them. Pick it up Buffalo, Ottawa, Washington, and Dallas!
posted by crashlanding at 10:36 PM on January 19


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