Why Elena Della Donne’s relaxed approach to coming out is good for sports

In a world where racial, cultural and gender differences continue to separate people, sports have always been a source for comradery among athletes of all backgrounds. On the other hand, sexual orientation has been something that has either been frowned upon or ignored within the confines of a sports locker room. However, within the last few years, athletes have been courageously opening up about their homosexuality.

In 2013, longtime NBA veteran Jason Collins announced that he was gay and became the first professional athlete to come out publicly.

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In 2014, SEC Player of the Year and Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam came out to the public and then became the first openly gay man to be drafted into the NFL.

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This week, a story broke on ESPN that reigning WNBA MVP and current USA women’s basketball star Elena Della Donne has announced that she is gay and engaged to her longtime partner Amanda Clifton. Now what’s more important than the actual announcement, if you want to call it that, is that she didn’t schedule a formal interview to break the story. She didn’t hold a press conference to announce the news to the world. She just said that some writers were doing an article on her, spent some time in her home and that her fiancée was going to be around because she was such a big part of her life.

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Most people will read that article and think that it’s not a big deal, and it’s just another athlete coming out. Well, that is where we find the biggest movement of all. Pro athletes, college athletes and kids in high school will see that an MVP is openly gay without making a big deal about it. This message could potentially resonate with homosexual athletes everywhere, as well as the athletes that share a locker room with them. The message is that it’s ok to be gay AND be yourself in sports and in life. If you are comfortable with yourself then other will be comfortable with you regardless of sexual orientation.

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Change has been needed for years. More change will continue to be necessary as we push to evolve to a better, more equal society for people of every race, gender, culture and sexual orientation. I just hope that people don’t ignore the progress that we are making along the way, no matter how small it may seem.

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 Paul Schaum

Sports Writer. Avid sports fan. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate. Currently living in Tempe, AZ.

Twitter: pjschaum6

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