Sunday, July 12, 2009

What If He Was Gay? Steve McNair and Double Standards

It is a shame that former NFL quarterback, Steve McNair, died. He was one of the pioneering black quarterbacks in the NFL. He was only 36 years old. He was a role model (at least on the field) for many other young black and white athletes. He was adored by many. Thousands of people attended his funeral and the tributes to him in the media are numerous. He has been lauded as a “hero” and “a legend.”

Steve McNair was shot (several times) by his 20 year old mistress as he was sleeping on the couch in the condo he and a friend owned. She then shot and killed herself, trying to position herself so that she would fall on his lap.

The problem with this sad love affair gone wrong is that Steve McNair was married to another woman and has four children who will now grow up without their father. His pastor and friend cautioned mourners at his memorial service not to judge McNair by “casting the first stone” and to forget how he died and remember all the good things he did instead.

I am all for forgiveness. None of us are perfect and most of us have secrets or past personal indiscretions we are not proud of. Steve McNair could very well have been a “good man” despite cheating on his wife and putting himself before his children.

What is difficult for me is the hypocrisy that the reaction to Steve McNair’s death represents. We are asked to overlook Steve McNair’s adulterous indiscretion and see him as a man of God. I could only wish that fans, players and others who follow men’s professional sports teams could be as accepting of gay athletes who lead exemplary personal lives or even those whose personal relationships are similarly complicated as Steve McNair’s was.

Male professional athletes are often given a pass on bad behavior, even criminal behavior, but a law-abiding, morally upstanding gay athlete? No so much.

Leonard Matlovich was a decorated Vietnam war veteran. He was also gay and fought publicly against the military policy banning lesbian and gay service members. The hypocrisy in the reaction to Steve Mc Nair’s death reminds me of the words on Leonard Matlovich’s tombstone, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Felons, adulterers, drug cheats, drunken brawlers, and selfish egotists? Hey, who cares? We love you, man (no homo, of course) . An openly gay male athlete? No way. Not in my locker room. Not on my team.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.


calugg said...


Thanks for your comment on McNair. It's a horrible situation, but no one has pointed out this 'manly' man of god was living in a brittle glass house.

And it's kinda creepy that he was hooked up with a 20 year-old at age 36. While age differences diminish "up the age scale" there are huge "outlook" differences between someone who is just 20 and a mid-30ish adult.

Surely, McNair gave his wife and kids no consideration when he hooked up with this troubled, troubled, kid.

Nicki said...

Very good points. Thanks for your commentary. I suppose it is through public outcry, increased awareness, and a whole lot of courage that this hypocrisy begins to deteriorate?

Anonymous said...

I came to your blog becaue I was trying to find gay athletes in major league sports.
Since I don't follow sports I wasn't aware of just how deep in the closet gay athletes still are.
It's a bloody damn shame.
And yes, the hypocrisy is truly appalling.
The only gay athletes that came to my mind easily were Louganis and Rudy Gallindo (sp?) the figure skater.
Now I know why.
These other manly men are so ill at ease with their manhood, feel so threatened by a "pansy" in the shower, think being gay is catching, that they can't acknowledge the skill, stamina, physical ability and integrity of a fellow player because he "bats for the 'wrong' team".
Shame on them.

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