The BuzzFeed article states that: Jason Collins might be America’s first openly gay major male athlete, but he’s years behind the women.
I don’t disagree that the coverage has been sexist but using this article as defense is also a bit shaky because there is definite bias and bending of the truth in the support they use.
Billie Jean King was outed in a palimony suit, so she wasn’t “openly” gay.
Navratilova was outed as well, in a New York Daily News article.
Female tennis is probably one of the most watched female sports in America, so categorizing it as a major sport isn’t a stretch, but using the LPGA (golf) and the WNBA (basketball) as examples of major sports leagues would be a definite reach. The LPGA usually isn’t televised. The viewership of the WNBA and other televised female sports, even female tennis, is still orders of magnitude below what the NBA, NFL, and MLB get. Those are the big three of major sports leagues, and people usually don’t even include the NHL, let alone the PGA in the same sentence.
The reason why everyone is making a bigger deal about Jason Collins does have to do with him being a man, and there are racial and gender based biases, but you can’t ignore the other factors that are in play. Being gay in male sports has been much less accepted than in female sports and homophobia is very much a problem. Several players in the NFL have spoken out against having a gay teammate, citing team chemistry issues and lockerroom/shower concerns. Having a women come out in the WNBA does not translate to the NFL. But having a NBA player come out does. It signifies directly relatable progress.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put down the accomplishments of any of those women, or lessen the difficulties they had to go through. I’m just trying to explain why the media coverage is this way, and while I do agree that there is sexism in their coverage, there are other significant factors aside from inherent gender bias that contribute to the disparities in the respective attention these athletes have been given.
In some ways, the dearth of coverage given to women coming out in sports could be seen as progress. Here’s an analogy, Jackie Robinson was the first black man in major league baseball, and obviously his story was given tremendous attention. But as society progressed, and black men in sports became more accepted, the media gave the subsequent black players less attention.
There are quite a few lesbian women in the WNBA as well as lesbian tennis players. Perhaps that’s why the attention given to each newly open lesbian athlete has decreased. Jason Collins, and the acceptance of gay athletes in male sports, is a closer parallel to the days of Jackie Robinson than it is to where female sports has progressed. That’s what I believe to be the major cause for this sensationalized media coverage.