Michael Irvin and gay professional athletes


I must admit, I wouldn't have expected it out of a Dallas Cowboys player, but let's have a hand for Michael Irvin, who has announced (in Out Magazine, with a shirtless cover) his full support for marriage equality:

“I don’t see how any African-American, with any inkling of history, can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life,” he said, according to the magazine. “No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality, and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”

Irvin says that he believes this work matters more than his football career and would embrace any athlete who chose to come out. He thinks the team that won three Super Bowls could have integrated an openly gay teammate as well as any team. “We had a bunch of different characters on that team,” Irvin said. “Deoin [Sanders] and Emmitt [Smith]. I believe that team would have handled it well.”

It's only a matter of time, I hope not too much time, before a professional male athlete from one of the four major sports comes out -- and think what that will do for the "It Gets Better" campaign. I've spent some time speculating on which sport it will be; baseball's the obvious choice, in part because of its history of breaking barriers but also because there's, well, a lot more tolerance in general in baseball, certainly in San Francisco.

Not hockey -- I mean, things are better now (and Candians have embraced same-sex marriage) but I went to hockey camp in Canada as a kid, and it was by far the most homophobic group of jocks I've ever met.

Basketball? Maybe. But honestly, I'm thinking the NFL. We know there are plenty of gay NFL players, and Irvin has already opened the door a little tiny crack ... I don't know. I can see it.