Tuesday, July 13, 2004

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (2)

What do baseball players think?

The Chicago Tribune and other Tribune papers conducted a survey of baseball players on a variety of baseball-related questions. The response rate was quite high -- 475 of 750 players (63%) responded. Most of the results are thoroughly unsurprising (Wrigley Field is the best ballpark; Barry Bonds is the best baseball player). However, I was pleasantly surprised by two findings:

An overwhelming majority of respondents—399—believe major-league players have a responsibility to be role models.

"As a player you get watched by a lot of kids, a lot of people," Houston center fielder Carlos Beltran said. "And when you're a good player, you have a lot of responsibility, you've got to do things right, in God's eyes and everybody's eyes, because people are looking at you, kids are looking at you."....

Players were almost as strongly united in their feelings about having a gay teammate, with better than 74 percent saying it would not be a problem.

"I had one, Billy Bean, and I didn't have a problem with it," Texas pitcher Doug Brocail said.

"Not at all. I've probably had one already," said Willie Harris of the White Sox. (emphasis added)

The tolerance for a gay teammate was particularly surprising, because the common media perception is that there is massive amounts of homophobia in professional sports -- click here for an Associated Press story from last week, and here and here for other examples. This survey suggests, at a minimum, that this is not true of baseball.

[What if the ballplayers were lying to appear politically correct?--ed. Well, you automatically run into that problem with public opinion surveys about touchy social issues, and that's an important caveat. That said, the survey also showed that only a third of the respondents said that steroid abuse was a problem in baseball. If image-conscious ballplayers were really trying to give answers that please media folks, that response should have been inflated as well.]

UPDATE: While I'm posting about baseball, Red Sox fans everywhere will have a good, rueful laugh at this Seth Stevenson rant about Roger Clemens over at Slate.

posted by Dan on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM


Billy Bean is gay? I had no idea. Of course, the obvious joke among football and hockey players is that they'd already assumed that 74% of baseball players already were gay...

posted by: Independent George on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

It's not the Billy Bean you are thinking of-the GM of the A's. This was another Billy Bean that played I think in the 80s.

I'm also very surprised at that survey and hope that it's true. Of course, a lot of players could be uncomfortable about having to undress in front of a gay player without being actively hostile.

posted by: MWS on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

I don't know. Does that mean 26% do have a problem with it? If 26% of the general population were homophobic I would call it intolerant.

posted by: Mike on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

Not everybody in Major League Baseball is as enlightened:


posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

MWS - thanks for clarifying. They probably should have mentioned that in the article - since the A's GM is pretty well-known, I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who made that mistake.

I wonder what Charles Barkley thinks?

posted by: Independent George on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

The results of this survey are only a surprise to those who have bought the notion that opposition to the gay agenda only comes from "homophobia".

Most of us on the right are more than willing to "live and let live" when it comes to gays. What we object to are:
a) radical changes to fundamental institutions imposed by the judiciary.
b) defining homosexuality as a protected class under civil rights law, with all the restrictions that brings on what should be considered private behavior.
c) hate crimes laws which can be construed to inhibit any frank discussion of the downsides of homosexual behavior, much less traditional Christian teaching.

posted by: Hunter McDaniel on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

Billy Beane is the GM of the Oakland A's, whereas Billy Bean was the "Gay Baseball Player."

posted by: Joel W on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

Don't know that I follow your last point, Dan. Ballplayers don't get into trouble with the sports media if they say steroid abuse is not a problem because most reporters don't care about steroids. Fans, sadly, don't care much either. Ballplayers have gotten into trouble for anti-gay comments because most sports reporters -- like most reporters generally -- are far to the left of mainstream opinion on anything to do with sex.

All the evidence suggests that for professional athletes, drugs are a much bigger issue than other athletes' sexual orientation because of the impact drugs can have on the field. Reporters don't like to cover stories about drugs until someone dies; it's difficult and risks jeopardizing relations with all those athletes who don't think drugs in sports are a problem. Writing columns about "bigotry," by contrast, is easy.

posted by: Zathras on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]


Marion Jones? Barry Bonds? Mark McGwire? Lance Armstrong? The list of names followed by question marks could continue, but I'm pretty sure reporters do cover stories about drugs whether or not somebody dies.

Further, if people in the media thought that homophobia was rampant in sports, they would risk relationships with players if they wrote about the bigotry associated with the players views on gay players.

Do you know that sports reporters are a representative subset of the media as a whole? Maybe sports reporters tend to be more homophobic than the media in general (a reasonable assumption if you thought the sports world tended to be more homophobic than the general population).

Frankly, ballplayers like Todd Jones and John Rocker have gotten in to trouble because what they said was insensitive, or at least not well thought out. Given that readership can be assumed to be 50% anti-gay marriage for example, what makes writing about bigotry easy? Almost all fans agree that steroids are bad for baseball (although, they might not care about changing it), but not all fans agree on homsosexuality. Wouldn't that make writing about steroids easier?

posted by: Joel W on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

There are fewer thugs in baseball than in many other sports, perhaps explaining the role model thing. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing players with gang tats or (extensive) bling-bling. There are more thugs in football and, of course, the NBA is thug-o-mania.

Also, Mike Piazza is still not gay.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

It's easy to confuse Bean and Beane because they were both mediocre/marginal/journeyman outfielders in the 80s. Beane is the one who was a high Mets draft pick, which is how I kept them straight (so to speak) before Bean "came out" and Beane became a celebrity GM.

That third saying steroids are not a problem could be lying to downplay the issue (remember, a finding that lots of players thought it was a problem would be used against the Players Union at the bargaining table). But it's noteworthy at a minimum that 3/4 of the players would at least feel the need, in an anonymous survey, to say they'd be fine with a gay teammate.

posted by: Crank on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

Nobody who has ever been in a MLB clubhouse after a game (or even before) would think that these players would be uncomfortable undressing in front of a gay player. Most players have dressed or undressed in front of dozens of random media persons for years.

Also it is common knowledge around baseball that there are many gay players and some have addressed it with their teammates. However, if you look at what happened to the KC first base coach a few years ago, when 2 individuals attacked him from the stands, you will understand how unprotected a baseball player is when on the field and why nobody has come out.

posted by: Rob M on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

I am a baseball player and I hate Homosexuals

posted by: Bucky Jacobson on 07.13.04 at 10:35 AM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?