Is MLB Ready For An Openly Gay Player?

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
March 25 2014 9:00 AM

Out in the Dugout: New Survey Suggests MLB Is Ready

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Well, 81 percent ready.

Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

Major League Baseball has yet to produce its Michael Sam or Jason Collins, but a new survey released by ESPN The Magazine of 143 anonymous players suggests that when the sport’s first openly gay player does come forward, he will be welcomed with a big … “so what?”

Athletes were asked whether they agreed with Yankee’s manager Joe Girardi that “MLB is ready for an openly gay player,” with 81 percent responding in the affirmative. Outsports notes that while the survey is not scientific, it does capture about 20 percent of the league’s players, meaning that the figure is fairly indicative of the mood in the league as a whole.

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While those numbers are encouraging in a general sense, less exciting are the quotes ESPN included from the survey takers. A National League All-Star said: "We come in here and we're all trying to do the same thing. Who cares what a guy does in his own time?" and a NL infielder predicted that while “there will be a couple of jerks … the majority of people are going to be like, ‘so what?’ ”

This admittedly limited sampling would seem to indicate that we’ve reached the “bedroom business” stage of gay integration in sports, wherein people perform tolerance according to a tepid sort of libertarian, to-each-his-own model. To be fair, this does appear to be a common step along the road to true acceptance, which, while not necessarily celebratory, tends to look much warmer and more supportive than “so what?” But getting there usually requires putting a human face on the issue, and heartening temperature-takings like these represent a big step toward finally seeing a few of those in the dugout. 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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