Wednesday, May 18, 2011

COMING OUT: PERSONAL RELIEF OR PUBLICITY STUNT?

The Chinese calendar doesn't say that it's the year to come out, but
it sure is starting to feel that way. Rick Welts, president and CEO of
the Phoenix Suns and Don Lemon, an anchor with CNN,  recently
came out of the closet and admitted they were gay. Steve Buckley,
a talented and respected sports writer with the Boston Herald, used
his column in January to tell his readers that yes, he is a homosexual.

I'm saying this with compassion and sensitivity, but why is it that people
who are gay,  feel the need to use such a platform to tell the entire world
such a private thing? In a world where we have seen just about everything
from Tiger's remarkable infidelity, Arnold's love child, and bin Laden's
penchant for porn, do we even blink at someone coming out anymore?
Do we even care? Does it matter?

In my 18 years in the broadcast business,  I've worked with openly
gay anchors, news directors, producers, directors, and executives.
I, nor my co-workers, ever cared about their sexual orientation and
it didn't really matter to us. Just as long as everyone was doing their
job and getting along, nobody cared what the heck was going on once
the shows were over.

Charles Barkley, the human quote machine, recently chimed in on
the subject and said that he played with teammates who were gay
and he didn't care. He said he'd rather be a teammate of a gay player
who could really contribute, than a straight player who was "tur-a-ble".

For some who are coming out of the closet, they say its a relief to
let it all out and tell everybody. A cathartic effect. I think people,
for the most part are compassionate when another person makes an
admission, whether it be as an alcoholic, drug addict, or whatever.
Are there still hate mongers and homophobic's out there? Absolutely.
But I really believe we've come a long way in...I don't want to say
"accepting", because I don't think that is the right word. I think "reacting"
to the news that someone is gay, is more appropriate.  Most of us, say
that's cool, and move on.

Will there ever be an active athlete who admits they are gay? Never
say never, but it's highly unlikely. It would be career suicide for
a professional player to come out because they would have to deal
with insensitive fans, for one. Playing a sport at the highest-level is
tough enough, trying to do it with people who are going to try to
break you, is nearly impossible. Tiger Woods has heard the whispers
about his sex life as he walks the PGA fairways, and as tough as he
is mentally, all of it has to be affecting him in some way.

A gay person can go into work knowing that he'll be protected
from insults and hate. A gay athlete going into a stadium will be the object
of a fan's wrath, either to distract them from playing well or because
they feel that because they paid for the ticket, they have the right to do
anything they want.

A stadium packed with 40,000 fans who've spent two hours drinking
in the parking lot before the game, is a lot different than a controlled,
professional office, where drinking and yelling are not allowed.
Do you think the fans in Philadelphia, who come out  of the womb
screaming "You suck!" are going to be kind to an athlete
who comes out of the closet?

A person in the work force who comes out, is more likely to be
protected in their job because of the admission. Companies shy
away from that all together and don't want to deal with potential
lawsuits. We've never seen an athlete make an admission while
playing, but John Ameche, a former NBA player who came out
after his playing days were over, said that he probably would've
lost his job if he outted himself while still under contract.

I've read comments from Lemon, who incidentally came out of
the closet just about the same time his book, "Transparent" is coming
out of his publisher's warehouse,  which is transparent itself.
Lemon said he wanted to come out so others would have the
courage to do so.

I must admit that I'm a bit cynical when I hear a television personality
state they are doing something for others, as if they were falling on a
grenade for another troop in the battlefields of Afghanistan. Most of
the anchors I've worked with would rather stab you in the back, than
help you out. That's just the way the television/entertainment business
is. The ones currently in it and reading this, are nodding their heads in
agreement.

And when an admission coincides with the release of a book, I get
a little queasy. I see that person taking advantage of his orientation
to make money and promote himself. Heck, I never really knew who
Lemon was until yesterday. Now he's plastered all over the
Internet, appearing on all the talk shows, and pimping his book. In
the cut-throat news and entertainment business, something like this
definitely brings the Q-rating up, and Lemon will get more than
his allotted 15 minutes of fame and perhaps, a fat new contract and
even the cover of "People" magazine.

It's not much different when I see Ashley Judd or Meredith-Baxter
on television promoting a book and then saying, they suffered from
depression, drugs, abuse, and a few other things. It cheapens
the entire thing because  all they want to do is sell a book, like
Lemon.

I never heard of Rick Welts until he came out of the closet, now
he's pretty much a household name in the sports world. I've seen him
on CNN, Fox, and a few other 24-hour news and sports channels.
His picture is splashed all over the papers and on the Internet.

Welts stated that he didn't want to come out earlier because it
might have kept him from his goal of becoming an NBA executive.
But now that he's attained his dream job, he's telling everyone in
the world that he's gay and  wants other openly gay people
not to have to worry about coming out.

I've heard from the so-called experts that it takes "courage" to
come out like that. I don't think courage is the right word. That
applies to those battling cancer or a faceless enemy in Iraq. That's
real courage. Those who come out in public, may have some
intestinal fortitude if it's not accompanied by the release of
a book or an appearance on Oprah.

I just hope we get to the point when the news organizations
finally use their better judgement and realize that people coming out
is not real news. It's just not. That is making them different from
the rest of us, and they are not. We are all the same.

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you that people are just people. Race, creed, sexual orientation. None of it matters. We are just people.

    At the same time, I can empathize with the need to be recognized as who they are. For many people, they have had to hide their sexual preference for decades. Being able to step up an say "I'm not gonna hide any more." is completely understandable. I agree that the timing in some cases is suspect, but in this day and age, I think we can basically expect it to happen.

    I completely understand that an active player feels the need to keep things close to the vest. I imagine it is difficult to go to away games and have the fanbase flinging all sorts of hurtful personal attacks. You can certainly work on becoming immune to them, but it still is unfortunate that people are so callous.

    Cool blog my friend. I look forward to reading more.

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