Kevin McClatchy, chairman of the newspaper chain that owns The Kansas City Star, told the New York Times he is gay in a story published yesterday. McClatchy, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said he chose to hide his sexual orientation as he entered the world of sports.
He once did some arithmetic. Over the last four decades, he said: “Tens of thousands of people have played either professional minor league baseball or major league baseball. Not one has come out and said that they’re gay while they’re playing.” Nor has any active player in the principal leagues of football, basketball or hockey, America’s three other major professional sports. That silence is a sobering, crucial reminder that for all the recent progress toward same-sex marriage and all the gay and lesbian characters popping up on television, there remains, in some quarters, a powerful stigma attached to homosexuality.
While professional athletes have come out of the closet after they’ve retired, no current athletes in major American pro sports are out. There are a growing number of gay-rights advocates in pro sports, however (examples here and here).
And pro sports offers a frontier on which there’s considerable good to be done. One reason there has been so much attention lately to statements about homosexuality, supportive and derogatory, from prominent male athletes is that they inhabit a stubborn bastion of reductively defined masculinity, and many impressionable kids take their cues from it. If its heroes make clear that being gay is O.K., the impact could be profound: fewer adolescents and teenagers bullied, fewer young and not-so-young adults leading stressful, painful double lives.
McClatchy, 49, said that his took a toll. “I think I was more paranoid, for sure, about people,” he said. “And suspicious, definitely. And angry.” His serious romantic relationships with men were few and strained until he left sports, and his partner of the last four years, Jack Basilone, who shares his home here, told me that McClatchy remains guarded, wary.