Did anyone even notice, yesterday, that Anderson Cooper came out as gay? One person I know said, "You mean he wasn't out?' She wasn't kidding; she really thought he was as out as Ellen, who was indeed a trailblazer back in the day, and took a lot of hits for it—making it possible for Cooper's news to be just another item in everyone's Twitter feed. As June Thomas wrote, "The news was met with a whole lot of 'duh!' and a little bit of bitterness. It’s not like Cooper’s sexuality was a big secret—just last week I referred to him as 'openly closeted.'" (Andrew Sullivan, whose email to Cooper purportedly spurred the announcement, got this comment as a response.)
So here's something even more groundbreaking, which I missed until now. Last month, the UConn men's hockey team posted a video announcement, as a team, saying that they welcome anyone who can play, gay or nay. As ESPN reported:
... the players pledge to support "any teammate, gay or straight, that can help us win games."
The program was created by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. It was launched in memory of Patrick's brother, Brendan, who died in a car accident in 2010. Brendan made headlines when he came out in November 2009 while serving as the manager of Miami of Ohio's college hockey team.
So far about 100 athletes, including 50 from the NHL, have signed on to pledge they would play with gay or transgender athletes, Patrick Burke said. But UConn is one of just eight teams that have joined as a group....
Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall said the videos were not done to be "a nice beacon for the university." He said it was the players' idea, and he told them not to do it unless they were ready to stand behind their words and deal with any negative fallout.
We all know that professional sports and the military have been, in the past, bastions of anti-gay attitudes, harbors for the kind of chest-beating hypermasculinity that trashes women and gay men alike. It's a big deal that the military is shifting—but sports isn't subject to the same top-down mandates. As far as I know, no male professional athlete has yet come out while still playing. We also know that young people are more accepting on LGBT issues every year. To have an entire team of jocks willing to take a stand like this—well, all I can say is: Dude, that's awesome.
My wife is a former jock and sports fanatic from Maine, so I am required to root for the Maine Black Bears. But my deeper allegiance might just have shifted slightly south.