I’ve been hearing the name Jackie Robinson a lot lately, and not just because a movie about him, “42,” hit multiplexes on Friday and had a bigger opening-weekend gross than any baseball movie ever. I’ve been hearing it in the context of an intensifying drumbeat: that the “gay Jackie Robinson” is just weeks or months away. We should retire the phrase now. It’s a flawed comparison. As a few other observers have noted, it doesn’t do justice to Robinson’s experience and to the many differences between the challenges he confronted and those facing the first man or men to acknowledge being gay while still active in one of America’s four major professional sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey).
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