Piranha in the Pool: The Art of Eating Our Own


“42” and the Unfair Comparison of a ‘Gay’ Jackie Robinson

EditorBy Stephanie Donald




Having been raised in the vestiges of the Jim Crow South and never being prejudiced against the black community, I was very glad to see a big-budget story about Jackie Robinson finally produced in Hollywood.JimCrowInDurhamNC

I haven’t had the opportunity to see it yet but I understand it barely scratches the surface of one of the most controversial moves made in the late 1940s by any major sports franchise when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Negro League player Jackie Robinson to be the first black player in any major league baseball franchise.

Branch Rickey, a deeply devoted Christian and politically conservative man, bucked the conventional system of baseball and the unwritten rule that had existed since the 1880s that no major league club would ever have a black Jackie_Robinsonplayer. Although the existing manager, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, swore never to have a black player, by 1943, his protégé, Rickey, had already received approval from the Dodgers Board of Directors and when Landis died in 1944, Rickey was named the new manager of the team; the die was cast even though Rickey had already been searching for a year.

His search took another three years and came down to two men; Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson. Paige was known to be a slightly heavy drinker and womanizer and a loud mouth while Robinson was quiet, attended church and was a devoted family man.

Now how exactly does any of this fit into a “gay” Jackie Robinson in a modern analogy? The answer is that it doesn’t.

Frank Bruni of the New York Times did a wonderful and acutely accurate (and painful) comparison in his editorial today of exactly what those differences were and he is exactly correct.

We’re overdue for a major league baseball player to come out of the closet but the historical comparison to Jackie Robinson isn’t fair to the African-American community, Jackie Robinson, or to the LGBT community.

As Bruni points out; Robinson was chosen specifically to break the “black barrier” and it was impossible to hire him and hide him to reveal his race until later. You simply can’t hide a skin color, while masking ones sexual preference is fairly easy to do unless he dance out on the field dressed in a tutu with a wand, sprinkling magic faerie dust over the first base seats at a home game and pivots on his tip-toes to the dug-out.

When a major league player finally does come out, the biggest and hardest questions won’t come from the heterosexual fans (although the torrent of Tweets about the “faggot” or “homo” ball player will no doubt cause you to get that “Oops! Twitter is having a problem!” message for the first few games) but from our own LGBT community ala Anderson Cooper’s coming out.

“Why didn’t you come out sooner because our community needs role models!”

There is a huge drive right now to stop the anti-gay slurs in professional sports. It almost seems as if all branches of sports from football to hockey are coming down hard on players who use anti-gay slurs against the other players like they’re smoothing the path for sports figures to come out of the closet.

But sitting out there in the fringes are organizations like GLAAD (no longer just for gays and lesbians but now re-dedicated to the entire LGBT community) and the Human Rights Campaign, with Chad Griffin and his army of body guards, as if he’s some sort of diplomat or rock star. All of these people are the piranhas that swim in the pool, waiting to strip the flesh off of any public face that dares to show some bravery and come out.

We’re very close to the day when pro-football players, baseball players, hockey, soccer, basketball and even other gay jockeys besides Kevin Mangalo will come out.

And right after they come out, GLAAD and the HRC will assuredly pick the flesh off their bones by criticizing their timing, their comments and what teams they’re on.

I doubt very seriously that beyond the racial comments, Jackie Robinson ever had to contend with the Gay & Lesbian Anti-Defamation League and the Human Rights Campaign. He was chosen so he could put up with the belittling and racial bigotry that was to follow being the first African-American in the major leagues but if he had to contend with having his bones being picked over by other black people, he probably would have drawn the line at that.

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