Is it possible for a gay athlete to come out while still competing? For many athletes, the risk is too high. There is fear of losing endorsements, of losing their fans and of ridicule from team members and others.
Tim Hardaway represents exactly what gay athletes fear. His views about not wanting to share a locker room with a teammate who is gay, or even be on the same team, seem to still remain widespread, especially in male sports. While it does seem more acceptable for female athletes to come out, only a few have done so. Many women athletes still view the choice as a big gamble; making it obvious it really isn't an easier decision for women athletes.
The gay and lesbian news magazine In the Life explores the issue of out athletes in an episode airing in Chicago on April 23, at 12:30 a.m. on WTTW-11. The episode is hosted by out athlete and sports reporter Diana Nyad, and briefly looks at Jon Amaechi's experience living as a closeted NBA athlete, while the bulk of the episode profiles out boxer Ann-Marie Saccurato.
Saccurato is the top-ranked lightweight and is World Boxing Council Champion. Her story is compelling and inspiring. After a serious car crash had doctors predicting Saccarato would never play sports again, she summoned all of her strength and courage and managed a full-fledged recovery. Saccurato took her second chance and entered the boxing ring, and has been building a successful career ever since.
On March 22, Saccurato fought against undefeated Holly Holm in Albuquerque, N.M., in a historic unification match for six welterweight belts. Also historic is that the fight was the first women's boxing match to broadcast live on Fox's 'Best Damn Sports Show Period.' Holm defeated Saccurato in a 10-round bout.
Saccurato told Windy City Times that there was never a time when she even considered not being out: 'To me, if you're not being true to yourself, you're not being true to the other people who look up to you. … I've never had to make that decision. It was never something I considered or questioned.'
Saccurato and her girlfriend, Angel Bovee, also an out boxer, have received tremendous support from fans and members of the boxing community. Both women see themselves as role models female boxers and lesbian athletes.
Both Saccurato and In the Life Director of Communications Jamie Dunn have hope for the younger generation.
Dunn commented, 'I think we are going to see some [ gay athletes ] on the high school level. Outsports.com is a wonderful Web site and it's starting an on-line dialogue with people about being yourself in high school, at that level. I think if you can have kids be themselves, that young, and really feel comfortable with who they are, then we're in a good place.'
Dunn believes that having an episode and possible future episodes that focus on gay and lesbian athletes will help contribute to the dialogue on the issue and possibly help young kids find a comfort in their own situations.
See www.inthelifetv.org and
Shooting Stars: LGBT
By Ross Forman
The best LGBT basketball players in the world—sans the best, recently outed John Amaechi, a former professional—will be in Chicago April 21-22 for the 17th Annual Coady Roundball Classic, the largest and longest-running LGBT basketball tournament.
All games will be held at the gymnasium at the University of Illinois-Chicago, 901 W. Roosevelt, with five courts being used. The tournament serves as the National Gay Basketball Association ( NGBA ) Championship and is the brainchild of Chicagoan Sam Coady.
'Other cities have hosted tournaments, but none have had the continuity of this event,' said Chicago's Ted Cappas, who has participated in nine tournaments and been the tournament director for the past four. 'Sam ran the tournament for 13 years in a row and really built it up. And he did it long before the ease of the Internet; he was running it mostly with phone calls and mail.
'We run a quality event, with good officiating, timeliness, proper seeding, etc.,' Cappas added. 'I'm very proud of this event, especially because everyone in the LGBT basketball community considers this event to be the premiere event in the country.'
There will be about 25 teams participating this year—a significant, yet expected, drop from last year when the Coady was held as part of Gay Games VII, featuring more than 40 teams participating in seven divisions. The 2006 Classic featured players from cities including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and even London.
'We want the visiting players to truly enjoy a taste of Chicago during their brief time here, not just enjoy the basketball,' Cappas said.
To that end, there are Coady-related social events in Lakeview all three nights. 'We try to be creative, do different things, add different elements each year,' Cappas said.
As for items available during the games, there will be food and drinks available at the gym—as well as a massage therapist and a doctor on site. For the past few years, organizers also have washed uniforms for visiting teams after the first day of games.
There are three men's divisions this year and one women's. Players range in age from 19 to 50 and are about 90 percent LGBT, Cappas said.
There will be at least 11 Chicago teams competing, including four women's squads. 'In the future, I really want to grow the women's division. There's no reason that the women's division shouldn't be as large as the men's,' Cappas said.
Local players to watch in the Coady Roundball Classic:
—Steven Bickwernert and Ned Markovich, Chicago Spin
—Mike McRaith and Matt Rever, Chicago Sofo