Magazine article Out

Gunning for Gold

Magazine article Out

Gunning for Gold

Article excerpt

We need a Jesse Owens moment. In 1936, the black American athlete won four gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Munich, much to the chagrin of AdolfHitler,whointendedtohijackthe games to promote his Aryan manifesto. That he was foiled is a tribute to the power of sports to connect with people on a level that transcends cheap ideologies. Owens later recalled shakinghands with Luz Long, his German rival, who was subsequently killed in the war. "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens said. "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment." A more eloquent testament to the fellowship of sports is hard to find. But Owen's success wasn't just one in the eye for Hitler. Having grown up in the American South, his win was an awkward reminder of his second-class status back home. President Franklin Roosevelt neither congratulated Owens nor invited him to the White House. "After all those stories about Hitler and his snub, I came back to my native country and I couldn't even ride in the front of the bus," he would later recall. It would take three more decades for that to change.

Here's the good news: we have a president today who is ready not only to shake the hand of a gay Olympian, but to recognize his or her marriage as well. The bad news is that America's sporting establishment remains woefully behind the president. There's a lot of handwringing about why that may be, but the simple fact is that team sports, especially among men, is fuelled by a primitive appeal to old-school masculinity and bonding rituals that exclude us. It's why the limited profile that gay athletes do enjoy is in such Olympic events as diving and gymnastics - solitary pursuits that don't rely on teamwork. It's been a very long time - 37 years - since Dave Kopay (page 63) became the first professional footballer to come out as gay. …

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