First of all, I agree with the overall message of Michael Wilbon’s Washington Post column on gay players in the NBA. It shouldn’t be a big deal, and hopefully soon we’ll get to the point where a pro athlete feels comfortable being out with his teammates while he’s playing.
What caught my eye, though, was the unusual harshness with which Wilbon attacks the rather unenlightened comments of some current players about the situation, notably LeBron James.
Not to be too cynical, but I don’t want to pay too much attention to reactions from a 22-year-old ballplayer with incredibly limited exposure, whose life has been little more than a series of tip-offs from biddy ball to AAU to high school to the pros. LeBron’s reaction simply reflects the self-absorption of the day when it comes to young athletic gods whose transition from boyhood to manhood is in too many cases put off until retirement from the pros.
Good luck getting that interview with LeBron at All-Star weekend!
More seriously, we need to pay attention to these players’ reactions because these are the people whose mindset needs to be changed so that the likes of John Amaechi are comfortable enough to share their sexual orientation with teammates in the future. Belittling LeBron doesn’t help us get there–telling people their view on something is unsophisticated rarely makes them adopt yours, I’ve found. Suggesting some realistic way that LeBron and his ilk can become more open-minded about these issues would be a better use of a column, I think.
In the fullness of time, I expect tolerance to take hold even in the last bastions of homophobia like the locker room. Years from now it will seem amazing that this was even an issue.