ESPN’s Keith Olbermann Knocks Gay Jason Collins STRAIGHT!
Keith pays tribute to the first openly gay player in one of the four major sports. And it’s not Jason Collins. On “Olbermann”, Keith talked about Glenn Burke, the LA Dodger who was the first openly gay athlete in major sports over 30 years before Jason Collins, and he hits a sweet spot. It’s personal, rational and ends with a shocking twist.
Glenn Burke, the Real First Openly Gay Athlete in Professional Sports
“If I can make friends honestly, it may be a step toward gays and straight people understanding each other. Maybe they’ll say, ‘He’s all right, there’s got to be a few more all right.’ Maybe it will begin to make it easier for other young gays to go into sports.” Glenn Burke
Those are the words of Major League Baseball’s first openly gay player. While the national media covers Jason Collins‘ first minutes on the court as an openly gay professional basketball player and the NFL network constantly breaks down rookie Michael Sam‘s combine stats, we forget about the ORIGINAL sports pioneer.
Glenn Burke played 225 games in the majors as a Dodger and as a member of the Athletics, with 523 at-bats, a .237 average, two home runs, 38 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. While those numbers remain far from stellar, he contributed as a spirited member of the locker room, well liked by his teammates.
Dusty Hi 5 Glenn aft HRMajor League Baseball didn’t either know how to deal with his sexual orientation or chose not to. The media wouldn’t touch the story until years after he left the game. Glenn Burke was a trailblazer who arrived on the scene long before our culture knew how to embrace him.
Over the next few weeks, forgive me if I seem apathetic towards media reports about the progress of Mr. Sam or Mr. Collins in their Collins Big Herorespective sports. We live in 2014. A player’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have any bearing on how well they throw a ball or how much weight they can lift. While they may have overcome hardships in their quest to seek a career in professional sports while maintaining their authenticity as a person, it pales in comparison to Burke’s journey more than 35 years ago. Most of us have come a long way since then, although you wouldn’t know it by the actions of a few knuckle-draggers.
I would write more about it, but wordsmith and sports personality Keith Olbermann eloquently sums it up better in 5 minutes than most professional journalists could with an entire novel.
The next time you read or hear a story about a gay athlete, remember outfielder Glenn Burke.
If you have any interest in learning more about his journey, check out his story from the 1982 issue of Inside Sports chronicling Burke’s time as a professional baseball player. Heartbreaking, courageous, inspiring and tragic… all words to describe the tale of professional sports’ first openly gay athlete.
Watch “Olbermann” weeknights on ESPN2 at 11pm ET