Prior to graduating in 1991 as a starting defensive lineman for McComb High School with a 4.02 GPA, I was nominated by Governor Ray Mabus of Mississippi to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The academics and athletics were all there — but my mindset wasn’t. Since I was struggling with my attraction to men at the time, I figured I’d never be able to achieve my fullest potential there, because I was gay.
Fast forward nearly 25 years later, if I were a senior at McComb High School in Mississippi today, I still wouldn’t go to Annapolis. Why? A young, black gay kid from Mississippi just wouldn’t fit in. Period.
Now that our first openly gay professional football player has been scurried away out of the U.S. to play in another country, there still exist no openly gay male athlete in team/contact sports in North America.
After a colorful dialogue on SiriusXM last Sunday with Billy Bean, the former LA Dodgers who came out publicly as gay over 15 years ago, I’ve come to realize that Mr. Bean has somewhat of a challenging position as an MLB Inclusion Ambassador. He’s employed by an organization that represents “America’s Pastime.” Despite the sport’s waning popularity, baseball is still the All-American Sport and its culture goes hand-in-hand with hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. With his task of helping to usher in an environment that welcomes inclusivity, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation, Bean has a very corporate approach to this role in light of the culture that baseball represents. His work is certainly important and commended but I’m not sure if significant policies and regulations will stem from a role that could aid in leveraging gay rights in the face of conservative values and viewpoints – quite similar to those recently revealed by New York Mets‘ third baseman, Daniel Murphy.
Back in March, Murphy, a devout Christian, said he “disagreed with ‘the [gay] lifestyle’ 100%.” But interestingly enough, this conversation wasn’t initiated by Bean himself. If it weren’t for an NJ.com reporter who sought out Murphy for his reaction to a recent dugout visit from Bean, we would’ve never known how Murphy really felt towards gay people. Unfortunately, the Mets organization have now silenced Murphy, unless media chat is related to baseball.
For my SiriusXM radio show, THE OUTFIELD, the world’s first-ever sports talk radio show for the LGBT community, it’d be great to hear more from the Daniel Murphys of sports – those individuals who believe that being gay is still a “lifestyle.”
I’m certainly not looking to force gay athletes out of the closet on this show. In fact, I understand their concern of having no desire of being an activist for the community. Many of them simply want to just play the sport that they love! Rather, I’m looking to encourage more dialogue with folks who (sub)consciously push these closeted players deeper into the closet.
There should be more open, honest and respectful dialogue with those who talk or think negatively about gays and lesbians – whether it be social, economic, athletic, religiously-based or business-related.
Unfortunately, many of these individuals won’t speak up or even identify themselves. Why? Perhaps they’re fearful of being ostracized. Maybe they don’t want to get called out on social media or lose their jobs or their paycheck if they say the wrong thing. Or maybe they’re looking to avoid public outcry or protest of their sports teams (or businesses) they represent.
But here’s the thing: Why should they speak up!?
The mere silence of closeted athletes prove their point on a daily basis. The silence of a closeted college coach, who desires to publicly come out but can’t because of workplace policy issues at a religious institution, speaks volumes. The silence of the closeted community offers up ammunition for the conservative value’s cause. Despite whatever reason these individuals remain in the closet, their silence continues to perpetuate a perception of shame – a perception that being a gay male pro athlete is unacceptable and homosexuality doesn’t belong in professional team (contact or combat) sports.
This sports atmosphere of silent rejection led to enormous anxiety for me and it was the primary reason why I didn’t attend the Naval Academy in 1991. And I wouldn’t consider playing football there now if I were a high school senior, even with today’s continued evolution of same-sex marriage underway. Childhood stories from a recent former Naval Academy athlete, Garrett Snoeyenbos, are very similar to my experiences as a kid over 30 years ago.
Sports pundits have appeared on THE OUTFIELD and have suggested that standards for gay athletes be raised in order for them to be truly considered worthy of professional play. Sure, it’s inaccurate to compare Michael Sam to the likes of a Jackie Robinson; but according to critics, you damn well better BE a Jackie Robinson, if you plan on being an openly gay player in this day and age. So what kind of message does that send to gay or bisexual college/pro athletes? Does it still smell a bit discriminating?
Diversity agents like Billy Bean, Wade Davis, gay sports initiatives like: You Can Play, GO! Athletes and Athlete Ally – are these groups and individuals communicating with one another? Are they transferring knowledge with each other, relying too heavily on social media? What about sharing experiences with those who might be homophobic or may not subscribe to their viewpoints? Can a conservative Chicago Blackhawks hockey player or homophobic NFL sports agent learn something from a Billy Bean testimonial in Florida? What if an intramural league that’s part of the ‘You Can Play’ Project invites a Sunday school teacher or a scout troop leader to a gay rugby match on a Saturday morning? Perhaps they could play on the team (if he’s good enough, of course).
A perfectly conducive and welcoming environment that’s inclusive for all gay athletes probably won’t happen. We may never reach that balanced level of acceptance or that perfect comfort zone for a closeted player to come out in popular American team sports. But I believe that an honest, genuine dialogue or a respectful exchange of viewpoints still needs to take place between conservatives and those affiliated with the gay sports movement. That way, everyone learns something about each other instead of these experiences, talks and testimonials taking place behind closed doors or behind people’s backs.
Some of us may be gay, some of us may be straight, some of us might be questioning. But at the end of the day, we are all HUMAN. I think in order to visualize future male, openly gay pro athletes (with skills or lack thereof), the journey of building bridges requires everyone’s involvement and insight – regardless of a person’s orientation or race or religion or whether they live in the South or in the Midwest.
Imagine heightened competition when all athletes can finally perform at their very best, knowing that their teammates, their bosses, the player’s agent and sports fans have their support despite differences in beliefs and viewpoints.
In the wake of steroid doping, global corruptions, scandals and deflated balls, what kind of future do YOU want for American sports and athleticism?
Writer/novelist and gay poet, James Baldwin, put it best:
“The future is like heaven – everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now.”
Tune in to “THE OUTFIELD,” live every Sunday from 11a-1p EST on SiriusXM’s OutQ, Channel 106.
Tonight I’m very excited to see the incredible Ms. Lalah Hathaway performing live at BB Kings in Times Square. If you’re in Manhattan, definitely be sure to come check her out. Also, just in case you missed it, I’ve added the recent Studio 360 feature I created for her during the release of her latest album, “Where It All Begins.” Just press play on the player below and enjoy!
Tonight’s showcase will also provide a status update on New Orleans’ restoration efforts from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of 2005. Blanchard’s award-winning, “A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina),” was the soundtrack to a 4-hour Spike Lee documentary which aired in 2006 on HBO. Blanchard, along with his mother and aunt were featured in the documentary. His mother actually lost her Pontchartrain Park home in the tragedy.
Tonight’s Global Salon will also feature author and award-winning literary translator, Susan Bernofsky. Susan is also responsible for connecting dozens of prolific writers from all over the world through her blog, Translationista. As a native of New Orleans, we’ll discuss with her how the city has inspired her as a writer, Susan’s upcoming projects about the Gulf region, and how she sees the city of New Orleans and its residents moving forward.
Authentic, complimentary New Orleans food and wine will be served as well! So if you’re anywhere near New York City and would like to have a soothing, meditative pause from the comprehensive Whitney media coverage, come check out our season finale of ‘The Global Salon‘ tonight at The Greene Space (44 Charlton Street at Varick). The show starts promptly at 7PM.
And if you’re outside of the tri-state area, you’re more the welcomed to view the event in its entirety live as a webcast at www.TheGreeneSpace.org! Complete video of the event will also be available on the website for future viewing.
For those of you who enjoy working out at the gym (or listening to a hot mix in your car while driving), here’s a mix to help you shed the pounds, all while honoring the legendary songstress, Whitney Houston!
With this mix, you’ll hear many of your favorite Whitney tunes (“I Will Always Love You,” “I Wanna Dance,” “How Will I Know,” and more) all given a sweet, progressive-dance touch-up! So click here to download!
Shout out to WNYC colleague, Annmarie Fertoli and my friend, Rob Deletis, out in Bethel, CT who have been waiting patiently (months actually) for me to conjure up a 30-minute music mix download.
So I hope you enjoy the workout mix and forever rest in eternal peace, Whitney!
Tonight, I’ll be hosting another event at The Greene Space here in New York City. One of my favorite smooth jazz artists will be performing — Keiko Matsui. Get ready for an enchanting evening of spiritual reflection and soothing, naturalistic emotion! And for the first time ever, Keiko will be collaborating with Japanese pop singer, Akiko Yano, for an exclusive 4-hand performance on the Greene Space Fazioli! Akiko has a massive Japanese following and has worked with artists like Pat Metheny, Thomas Dolby, The Chieftains, and The Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The Global Salon also provides an amazing platform for discussion — so I’m very excited to have the Deputy Chief at the Consulate General of Japan in New York — Yasuhisa Kawamura.
We’ve also invited prolific writer/editor, Roland Kelts, and renowned author, Ian Buruma, who’s written very insightful books about Japanese culture, including “Behind the Mask,” and “God’s Dust: A Modern Asian Journey.”
Once again, tickets for this event are SOLD OUT, but check out the live webcast of the event tonight at 7P (EST) at www.TheGreeneSpace.org.
Many thanks to PEN World Voices Festival for their partnership, every single staff member of The Greene Space who work effortlessly behind the scenes making sure everything’s on point, and the Executive Producer, Indira Etwaroo. You believed in me and you’ve given me an opportunity to shine! Thank you for providing me with the freedom to design remarkable showcases dedicated to our global, cultural landscape. I could not have done any of this without your support.
Mark your calendars for the next Global Salon on Wednesday, February 15th, featuring Grammy award winner, Golden Globe recipient, Terence Blanchard!
Click here for the latest episode of David Alpern‘s “For Your Ears Only,” which aired nationwide on the radio this past weekend. I was excited to co-host this particular episode because I was given the assignment to write a segment about an online magazine called, “The Good Men Project.”
To hear that segment, click here.
The Good Men Project is a media alternative to traditional perceptions of what constitutes and defines a man [think anti-GQ/Details/Esquire, or even Sports Illustrated]. This movement offers up a glimpse into the world of the “enlightened masculinity.” There’s also an associated book published under The Good Men Foundation, a nonprofit that donates book proceeds to the Boys and Girls Clubs and other charities.
I had never heard of this project before. But after reading a few posts, I was impressed with some of its content.
I mean — check out some of the post titles: “All I See Are White Men:” Confronting Racism in Silicon Valley,” “Non-Monogamy,” and two of my personal favorite posts: “Mostly Straight, Most of the Time,” and “The New Macho.” The last two posts address a topic similar to a post I had written on my personal blog last year which featured the rugby legend, Gareth Thomas: “The Courage of a Real Man: Defy StereoTypes.”
As I continued to read through several posts on “The Good Men Project,” I couldn’t help but remember an incident that happened to me about three years ago. Back in 2008, I went with a group of (gay male) friends to see the film, “Sex and The City.” Immediately after the movie ended, I almost wanted to throw up! I began thinking to myself — “Eddie, you’re gay, aren’t you supposed to love this movie and go completely bizarre over the story lines and fashions of Carrie and Samantha and all the rest of those characters who I seriously couldn’t attempt to name right now!?” Low and behold, I walked away from the theater incredibly depressed and actually kind of disgusted.
Afterwards, we all went out for dinner and I remember exclaiming at the table, “Why can’t there be a film FOR men — I mean, real men? Why can’t men feel good about themselves?” And the 3 of them looked at me like, “Hmmm, Eddie, that’s a thought… but that’s why we have therapy — anyway, pass the guacamole.”
Well, fast-forward to present-day, it feels amazingly refreshing to read stories and comments from The Good Men Project about the complexities of men. The site discusses issues related to race, family, gender, and sexuality — subject matter I think about mentally but perhaps I try to avoid talking about openly.
Matlack recently made a comment in one of his interviews stating, “Men are not Bud Light commercials.” Although Bud Light [Lime] is actually the only beer I’ll drink, I get where he’s coming from. Men are as complicated, if not more complicated, than women. But Tom’s statement impacts advertisers. For instance, there are whiskey ads on “The Good Men Project,” but no beer — so I’m curious as to how other advertisers have reacted to his project’s perspective, ‘Good Men’s’ level of growth, and how they’ve been able to measure their success.
Unfortunately, the length of the FYEO segment only allowed us to talk very briefly about the Occupy VC story and the origins of the project.
I’m sure we’ll continue to hear more about The Good Men Project as well as its provocative ideology known as the new ‘Manhood Movement’ in the very near future!
Thanks again to David Alpern for bringing this project to my attention. I’ll be co-hosting FYEO with him throughout the remainder of the month, so stay tuned.
With the duration of the 360 piece only 8 minutes and our interview lasting for an hour, there were tons of tape left on the cutting room floor! (lol)
During our session, I reminded her that she was actually the very first celebrity I had ever interviewed! I conducted this interview for an NPR-affiliate, KPVU-FM back in 1991 inside her tour bus at the time. Right when the interview started, Lalah pulls out a cigarette! Lalah then asks if I would be offended if she smoked! I was so caught up in the moment of meeting her at the time that I actually told her: “Sure, Ms. Hathaway, it’s totally fine!” But in my mind, I was literally DYING — friends who know me are completely aware of my hatred of cigarette smoke! But yet, we conducted the interview on that tour bus anyway.
That was 20 years ago! And I shared that story with Lalah during our 360 interview — and she cracked up! Thankfully, she informs me that she’s given up smoking!
Lalah and I also talked about one of my favorite songs, “Small of My Back,” taken from her latest album, “Where It All Begins.” I told Lalah that it reminded me of a track leftover from the “Off The Wall” recording sessions of Michael Jackson! She flipped out! According to Lalah, the background vocals of that track [which are all sung by Lalah] are actually a tribute to Michael Jackson! She mentioned that all the layered vocals you hear in the song are reminiscent of what Janet and Michael would do in their recordings!
My interview with Lalah’s mother, Eulaulah Hathaway, was also very rewarding. I actually had an opportunity to meet her during Lalah’s NYC performance at the Highline Ballroom a couple of days after we conducted our interview.
I would love to hear your comments about the feature! Amazing shout-outs to Andrea Greene, Rick Nuhn, and Joel Amsterdam for making this interview happen!