Today’s sports landscape generally has put forth the idea that a player’s sexual preference is accepted regardless of what that preference is. Last May the Las Angeles Galaxy of MLS welcomed Robby Rogers to their team. Rogers who is openly gay, was at the time the first openly gay athlete on a major American sports team. At the end of the 2012-13 NBA season, NBA player Jason Collins announced that he was gay prior to entering free agency. In February of 2014 the Brooklyn Nets signed Collins thus making him the first openly gay player to play in the NBA.
Michael Sam (Missouri Defensive End) will enter the 2014 NFL draft as an openly gay player. Assuming that Sam is drafted and plays in 2014, he will become the first openly gay player to ever play in the NFL. Earlier this week UMASS Guard Derrick Gordon came out of the closest becoming the first openly gay D1 player.
To this point the world of NASCAR has not ever had an openly gay driver. In fact, NASCAR for the most part has been dominated why Caucasian American drivers. Over recent years the sport has seen a little more diversity thanks to the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose. However, the sport largely does consist of white American male drivers, for whatever reason. This of course begs the question, could NASCAR handle having an openly gay driver?
Four-time NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon recently did an interview with Larry King where this question was asked of him.
I think if they had talent and they earned the right to be here and could do everything, you know, that it takes to be a top driver, I don’t see any reason why. I think anybody would be accepted in this sport, if they have talent and can do the job.
Gordon’s response was one that you would expect and certainly hope is true. However, one can only speculate how the sport would react until they actually have an openly gay driver. I think when it comes to this topic the question shouldn’t fall on the drivers as much as it should on NASCAR’s fans. The drivers are professionals and would most likely all behave as such but the fans might be another question.
The only thing that you could compare NASCAR having an openly gay driver too would be the sport having Danica Patrick. Patrick isn’t the sports first female driver but she is the most high profile one. Patrick also appears to be in it for the long run. To say that Patrick has been welcomed to the sport with open arms by the fans would be nothing short of a lie. Whilst Patrick may have millions of fans, she also has millions of detractors. Many of her detractors feel that because of her gender she doesn’t belong in the sport.
If some fans take issue with a female running in the sport, is it fair to say they would have the same issue with an openly gay male? Sexuality and gender should have nothing to do with how an athlete is perveived but Patrick’s gender is often one of the man reasons she is heckled. NASCAR has come a long ways from its southern and perceived red-neck roots but the beliefs of fans in those regions in regards to some issues are still very strong. Whether their beliefs lie in religion or personal belief, the fact is that there are people out there that do not support the homosexual lifestyle. Right or wrong; we live in a world where this is true and needs to be understood when discussing a topic like this.
When it comes to the sport, I firmly believe that NASCAR is ready. I believe that regardless of a drivers personal beliefs, they would be able to act in a professional manner on and off of the track. When it comes to the fans though, I just don’t think that they are ready. Hopefully if and when this day comes to be, I will be wrong.