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Openly gay professional players still face a tough culture.
Photo: MILB.com
Photo: MILB.com

We’ve seen it in the NBA, NFL, and even professional wrestling, but now a professional baseball player on an MLB-affiliated team has announced he’s gay.

David Denson was drafted in the 15th round of the MLB draft in 2013. As a player for the Milwaukee Brewer’s minor league affiliate of the Pioneer League, the first baseman has decided to make history. In an interview published on August 15 with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Denson came out.

Denson isn’t the first male professional athlete in one of the major U.S. sports to announce that he was gay. In 2013, NBA veteran Jason Collins came out, and played one more year with the Brooklyn Nets. Star NCAA football player, Michael Sam, also revealed his sexual orientation in 2014, and was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, though his career didn’t take off as he would have hoped. Professional football appears to have taken its toll on Sam, and as the figurehead for openly gay players in the major leagues, his departure continues the conversation of LGBT acceptance in professional sports.

As reported by the New York Times, Michael Sam announced his hiatus from professional football last Friday, tweeting, “The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health. Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time.”

Denson and Sam’s stories are those of courage, and also one that is becoming more commonplace. As the country continues to become more understanding, it might reach a time where a player coming out as gay isn’t that big of a story, but rather the norm. Right now, sports teams at all levels face the gargantuan task of gutting a culture based around traditional understanding of masculinity and sexuality. Individuals may feel comfortable coming out to their teammates, who overwhelmingly support these players, but the overall culture is stubborn and unlikely to so quickly embrace our new social standards.

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