Leading Man Wanted

A team of filmmakers is set to follow the first gay athlete in a major team sport—whoever he may be
April 08, 2013

Despite the greater acceptance of homosexuality in American society—in the military, in marriage equality and in many religions—one barrier has yet to be crossed: No active professional male athlete in a high-profile U.S. sport has come out. Whenever that happens and whatever the reaction, a team of documentary filmmakers is poised to examine the decision and its aftermath. "It's one of the last taboos," says Steven Cantor, an Academy Award--nominated director who has lined up the funding and distribution for the project, "but now a change seems really imminent."

Not only is the Supreme Court deliberating on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, which has been legalized in nine states and the District of Columbia, but the sports world is also showing increasing signs of openness, including the public support of gay rights by NFL linebacker Scott Fujita and punter Chris Kluwe and retired NHL left winger Sean Avery. Just last week, former U.S. midfielder Robbie Rogers, 25, gave his first interviews since coming out in February, saying he may reconsider his retirement and return to MLS. What's more, according to a report last Thursday on CBSSports.com, an active NFL player is considering coming out.

The documentarians view themselves as part of a safety net for any gay male athlete who takes the leap. They have already spoken to top sports companies about endorsement opportunities for such a pioneer. "There's no question these brands would build million-dollar campaigns around these athletes," says Daniel Laikind, one of the proposed documentary's producers, who points out that while financial reward shouldn't be a player's main incentive, the corporate interest should lessen concerns that coming out would harm him financially.

The filmmakers are sports fans, but their documentary work has traversed a wide range of subjects, from Willie Nelson to The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. The producers say that feedback from the players unions has been positive, and the producers hope their preparation and the ability to provide more context and detail than the daily news media will help persuade an athlete to participate. "We'll give more time for a player to show himself to a wider audience," says Howard Gertler, one of the project's producers. "There's that fear that if you're the first person to come out, you'll become two-dimensional—the gay athlete—and we want to go deeper than that."

It's no small thing, of course, for a male athlete to announce his homosexuality, and there may be strength in numbers for multiple established athletes to do so at the same time. The filmmakers are ready for anything. Now that their search is public, they just need a trailblazer who's ready for them.

GO FIGURE

232

Pitches thrown in a game by 16-year-old righthander Tomohiro Anraku of Saibi High in Ehime Prefecture, Japan, who struck out 13 and surrendered 10 hits and five walks in a 13-inning, 4--3 win.

3

Days rest before Anraku's next start, a 159-pitch, complete-game 4--1 victory last Saturday.

42

Seasons without a winning road record for the Clippers, who clinched the first for the franchise (including its time in Buffalo and San Diego) with a 105--91 victory at New Orleans.

129

Age of the season ticket to Burnley Football Club that will be put on display at the team's grounds by David Metcalfe, whose great grandfather was issued the card in 1884, the Clarets' third year of existence.

7:53

Time it took Oilers leftwinger Taylor Hall to score three goals in a 4--0 win over the Canucks last Saturday, breaking Wayne Gretzky's club-record 12:38 for fastest hat trick to start a game.

PHOTOPHOTOPLUS MAGAZINE/GETTY IMAGES (CLAPPERBOARD)FIRST TAKE With acceptance of homosexuality spreading rapidly, a player's coming out seems imminent. PHOTOMATT SAYLES/INVISION/AP (GERTLER)Support Crew "The weight on the shoulders of the [athlete] is going to be huge, and we recognize that," says Gertler (left), with Cantor (near right) and Laikind. TWO PHOTOSFERNANDO LEON/GETTY IMAGES (CANTOR AND LAIKIND)[See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)