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Three openly gay male athletes who are working it out

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Months after going public about their sexuality, major league and pro athletes have found their careers heading in different directions.

1. Orlando Cruz, a Puerto Rico native, is a professional featherweight boxer. In October 2012, Cruz made history when he came out as the first gay professional boxer. In an interview with USA Today, he expressed that he has been "fighting for more than 24 years". He realized that he was and wanted to continue being a role model for young and aspiring boxers; therefore he knew he had to be true to himself and come out as an openly gay boxer. Since coming out last October, Cruz finally has the opportunity to fight for his first world title and is dedicating his fight to his gay supporters and his homeland. Since his public admittance, Cruz has had a positive experience. He has not faced any set back because of his sexual orientation. If Cruz wins the title, he will become the first openly gay world champion in boxing history.

2. Another recent openly gay athlete is Robbie Rogers, who played for Leeds in England. Earlier this year he announced his retirement in addition to revealing he was gay. Despite retiring, Rogers made a comeback and played nine mates with the Galaxy. In May, Rogers made history. When he stepped onto the field as a substitute for the Galaxy's 4-0 win over Seattle, he became the first openly gay man in North America to play in a major pro sports league.

3. An athlete whose career has not taken off since coming out has been Jason Collins. In May, Collins went public and become the first openly gay male player in the four major professional U.S. sports. After this release, he was expected to continue his career as an unrestricted free agent. Yet, four months later he is still not signed to a team. We are approaching the opening of NBA training camp in about a month, therefore time is running out for Jason Collins' to make history and become the NBA's first openly gay and active player. 

Rather than the perceiving the NBA as unaccepting of Jason Collins, the other possible factor is that teams are making judgments based on other factors such as age and finances. Jason Collins is 34 years old. Teams are leaning more toward younger, fresh, greater playing value and ultimately cheaper players. However, it would be a loss to the LGBT community to not have an openly gay active NBA player as a role model.

Above all, whether NBA teams are choosing Jason Collins or not, he still made the courageous step to let his personal story be public. NBA teams may have their own agenda for this situation. That alone is a huge step for the sports world. There should be more leaders as such to give aspiring athletes the notion that it is okay to be different. This correlates with the Just Play Project motto, "If you can play, you can play." We don't have time or place for barriers to exist in athletics. Players should have their eyes on the prize and that is winning.

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