"Now I can freak, flock, flow, f*** up a f****t/but understand the ways and I ain't down with gays..." - Brand Nubian, "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down"
I loved Carl Lewis as a kid. I always watched the track and field events at the Summer Olympics, and Carl Lewis seemed to be able to fly through the air when he did the long jump and high jump. Michael Johnson was the man with the golden shoes in '96, but Carl Lewis was, as corny as it sounds, my hero.
When my mom came home one day and told me Carl Lewis had announced he was gay, I was devastated. I clearly remember disbelieving her and thinking she was trying to hurt me for some reason. He couldn't possibly be gay. There was something inherently wrong with my hero enjoying the intimate company of another man.
Even as a young man, I had been influenced to find homosexuality repulsive.
Today, Barack Obama became the first American president to publicly support same-sex marriage. The move was heralded by liberals and gay rights activists around the globe, but presumably one group of the voting public silently decried Obama's declaration.
Male professional athletes.
"I hate gay people"
In 2007, former NBA player John Amaechi announced that he was gay. The story made headlines across the sports world, but it seemed to be a "tinder story" that would flame brightly for a few days and then quietly disappear. After all, Amaechi had been a below-average baller, a forgettable face in his time with the League.
Then Tim Hardaway spoke up.
Even with Twitter in its infancy and YouTube still owned by...YouTube, Hardaway's comments spread quickly and led to a backlash of criticism and thousands of ironic jokes about his nickname "Mr. Crossover". Hardaway later apologized for his words, but the damage had been done. Hardaway had exemplified the thoughts and ideas of many pro athletes: I don't want a gay man on my team.
Many other pro athletes, owners and coaches offered their opinions on the subject, from Shaquille O'Neal to LeBron James and many of them showed support for Amaechi (make sure you read Tracy McGrady's comments). But many of them also said it would be tough for a player to be openly gay while playing.
"Who do you love?"
It was the hot subject of the week after Joe Biden appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday and said he was fully in support of gay marriage. The Obama Administration did a dance akin to standing barefoot on hot coals for three days before Barack himself definitively agreed with the views of his VP.
With the election five months away and Mitt Romney finally clearing himself as the Republican nominee, it is important for Obama to gather firm support from a group very likely to make itself heard at the polls. It should be considered, however, how exactly another group that strongly supported Barack in 2008 will turn now that he has fully championed gays and lesbians in their quest for full marriage rights.
Just as Ludacris, Young Jeezy, Kanye West strongly supported the Man from Hyde Park in his quest for the White House, so did many pro athletes, especially black basketball players. Derrick Rose has been a very vocal supporter of Obama, and the president sends the love back to him on many occasions.
However, in both the black community and the pro basketball fraternity, there is an unspoken mandate that homosexuality is a detriment on the court. The proximity of bodies and the nature of the game that hearkens back to its playground roots makes many men uneasy about sharing the court with a gay teammate.
With the leader of the free world throwing his support behind the gay marriage movement five months before the election, the question must be asked: will those same hardwood heroes and those who adore them think twice before casting their ballots in November?
As Joe Biden said Sunday, it's a question of "who do you love?"
See you in the cheap seats.