It's not easy to be openly gay in the sports world. Anyone who's ever set foot inside a locker room at any level, for any reason, has heard enough anti-gay invective to last a lifetime. So it takes extra courage for someone who is not only an established and well-respected columnist, author, and personality but who is also all of those things within the world of sports, to come out.
In a column in today's Herald, titled "Welcome to my coming-out party," Buckley wrote:
Just over seven years ago, before Thanksgiving, we were getting into the car outside of a CVS when my mother said, “I think you should go ahead and do that story you’ve been talking about.”
“Yes,” she said. “Just go ahead and do it. And then we’ll have a party.”
She was talking about the story in which I would say that I am gay.
The piece is extremely heartfelt, and in Buckley's trademark style, it is direct and incredibly honest. This is a man who for years has told his readers and listeners (on WEEI radio) exactly what he's felt about any given topic. The only thing that's changed is that now he's talking about himself, rather than the virtues or non-virtues of 'Moneyball,' or Brady Vs. Bledsoe (which yes, was a huge controversy in 2002.)
I had a few conversations with Steve before he published this piece, and despite the enormity of the task he was about to undertake - (coming out) - every single one of them eventually came back to sports. This is a man who loves his job, who excels at his job, and who has gained the respect of the entire sports media world because of it. This is the same Steve Buckley that Boston-area sports fans have been reading and listening to for years and years. And now, this is a man who is arguably the highest-profile sportswriter ever to come out as gay.
Athletes struggle with the "role model" question all the time, often quite publicly. But it's a label that's seldom attached to the men and women who cover those athletes. Now it can be attached to Steve Buckley. Thankfully, for Steve to be a role model, he doesn't have to do a single thing differently. By just continuing to be a great sportswriter, he is showing the world that any limits placed on what LGBT people can or can't do are simply false. I'll have an interview with Steve later on, including some of the background that led to this, and how he's feeling today. But I want to end this post with this thought:
In 2008, we commissioned a survey in which we asked people whose opinions about LGBT equality had become more favorable, WHY they had become more favorable. 79% responded that "knowing someone who is gay or lesbian" was a major factor.
And sure, it's not quite the same thing as having a friend or family member - but the relationship between sports fans and sports writers is a much closer one than people outside that universe might think. As of this morning, the hundreds of thousands of people in New England and around the country who follow Boston-area sports ... know someone who is gay.
Thank you, Steve Buckley.