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In 2013–14, Jason Collins and Michael Sam became the first 2 athletes from the 4 most popular professional leagues in the United States to publicly come out as gay during their playing careers. U.S. men’s pro team sports have historically been arenas where hegemonic masculinity flourishes and open homosexuality is nearly nonexistent. However, these athletes came out during a period when sexual minorities had won numerous civil rights and were gaining acceptance by a majority of Americans, particularly those who self-identify as politically liberal. A textual analysis examined framing of Collins’s and Sam’s coming out in articles published on the liberal political Web site MSNBC.com. Focus was placed on how these athletes, homosexuality, and masculinity were framed in the corresponding message-board comments posted in response to these articles. Five primary themes emerged from the data, showing that acceptable forms of masculinities and homosexuality in sport remain contested terrains, even on liberal message boards.
The author is with the Dept. of Sports Media, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.