Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Out to Win" documents slow but increasing acceptance of LGBT athletes in pro sports

Out to Win”, a documentary by Malcolm Ingram (“Small Town Gay Bar”, 2006), examines the gradual acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes in professional sports.  In very recent years, major sports leagues have started to announce non-discrimination policies. 
While opening with an enactment of some old-style hate rhetoric, the film soon moves to interving Dave Kopay, probably the first professional football player to later come out.  But during his career, he was married and then lived clandestinely with a lover who would die of AIDS (he apparently never became infected). To cover up, he played the day of his partner’s funeral.
The second big narrative is baseball player Billy Bean, who was a pretty effective utility player with some home run power for the Tigers, Padres and Dodgers.  But Bean eventually left the game, rather than live in the closet, but today he works for MLB on its diversity and inclusion programs.  (On the other hand all MLB teams offer paid paternity and parental leave to players and employees.)  
Curiously, the film omitted the narrative of Glenn Burke (who would die of AIDS in 1995).
The biggest story is, of course, about Michael Sam, who got picked in draft by the St. Louis Rams, washed out, and then also didn’t make a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys. The film showed what the tryouts (at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis) look like. 
John Amaechi presents the issues for the NBA.  Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova speak about the tennis circuit, and Martina had emigrated to the US from a Communist country before announcing her lesbianism, which at the time could have been a problem for legal status.
Toward the end, a high school football player and another baseball player provide mutual support at an event in Portland OR.
The acceptance of LGBT people in sports follows the acceptance in the military (with the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2011, which does not yet help with transgender), and gradual changes in the Boy Scouts of America.
I remember hearing homophobic rhetoric about sports locker rooms back in the 1970s in the workplace.  When I was living in Dallas in the 1980s, I knew someone who had been a relief pitcher in the minors but had tested HIV positive.  During the time I lived in Dallas he did not become ill.

But the whole "locker room" and "showers" argument, as an analogue with the barracks privacy argument made by Moskos and Nunn for the military back in 1993, seems to have totally lost traction now.  A younger generation does not care about this idea the way some people did thirty years ago. 
The NBC soap “Days of our Lives” has a subplot about a gay Major League baseball pitcher forced out by injury after living in the closet and then coming out, creating a love triangle.

The best site I can find is here. The production companies are Brothers Double and TCB.

The film was screened Friday night at Silverdocs at Landmark E Street and it was at SXSW.

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