Thursday, April 14, 2005

Can Gay Athletes Expect The Same Treatment from Fans as their Straight Teammates? It all Depends on how You Ask the Question.

NBC and USA Network commissioned a poll taken by Pen Schoenand Berland Associates which conducted 979 interviews among the general population from March 18-21, 2005. Some of the results will surprise you, others may not.

78 percent of those responding felt that gay athletes should participate in organized sports. Also nearly the same number felt that having an openly gay athlete doesnot hurt either the entire team or the entire sport. But almost as many, 68%, felt that it would hurt an athlete's career to be openly gay. Likewise nearly the same number felt that gay athletes are unfairly treated in both their private and professional lives. Also the same number of respondents felt that society was more accepting of gays playing in tennis or golf compared to contact sports like wrestling and boxing. You get a big hint here of the taboo gay athletes in contact sports face.

Then the next set of questions change course and the numbers are more evenly divided. For instance, they were asked if they admire an athlete who is openly gay. Only 48% said yes. The same number felt that American does need a open dialogue and discussion about homosexuality and sports. This is slightly less than half, but still is getting the public to become more comfortable with the subject. The margin gets wider, 44% for, 48% against when the question was asked, "Is it a sin to engage in homosexual behavior?" But when answering the statement, "Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society", 61% said yes, 33% said no.
Note during these types of questions, you don't get 100% responses. This margin gets even bigger when questions such as, "If ESPN created a television special on the accomplishments of gay athletes, viewers would be enraged.", 42% said yes, 22% said no. I guess some of the respondents didn't know what ESPN was.

Life style questions completed the survey. When asked, Society should not put any resrictions on sex between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes, 77% agreed with that statement, 18% disagreed. 59% also felt that gay and lesbian couples can be as good parents as heterosexual couples. However when asked about gay marriage, 55% said that gay marriage would go against their religious beliefs. And again, when asked if it is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior, 44% said yes, 46% said no.

ALso not surprising,55% of Democrats agree that American needs to participate in an open discussion about gays in sports, while 65% of Republicans disagreed that there should be this open dialogue. Also 40% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of gay men while only 36% have that same feeling about lesbians. Finally, 61% know a friend, colleague or family member who is gay.

How we as gay men who like sports or participate in sports are felt by Mr. and Mrs. America is somewhat surprising. When they can associate us, we get high marks. But when the question mentions the sexuality aspects of gay life, they get squeemish and tend to support gay rights less.

How do you feel about the survey? The entire survey can be found at this link:


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