History was made again at a major league baseball game on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
No, it was not a repeat of last Wednesday's record-setting zero attendance figure in Baltimore. Instead, two fans' love was celebrated on the Dodger Stadium "Kiss Cam." It just so happened that this couple was gay, the Huffington Post reported. The world didn't stop spinning and the sky didn't fall. Instead, it was like any other night at the ballpark, with the crowd erupting in cheers to voice their support.
This kiss cam moment made history because 15 years ago, Dodger Stadium was the flashpoint of a serious low in America's acceptance of gays and lesbians. On August 8, 2000, Dodger fans complained to stadium security that Danielle Goldey and Meredith Kott, a lesbian couple, were kissing in the stands and this prompted security guards to escort the couple out of the stadium, according to SB Nation's Outsports blog.
The organization apologized to the couple and they were given seats behind home plate to make up for the ejection after a lawsuit was threatened. The Dodgers also responded by giving away 5,000 tickets to gay-rights groups. One month later, the Dodgers hosted "Gay and Lesbian Night at Dodger Stadium," which was reported as the first "gay night" at a professional baseball game.
The 15-year evolution in Dodger fans' attitude towards gays and lesbians mirrors that of America's changing stance on gay rights nationally. According to the Pew Research Center, since 2001 Americans' opinion on gay marriage have basically flipped. In 2001, 57 percent of Americans opposed gay marriage, with only 35 percent in support. Today, 52 percent of the country supports gay marriage and 40 percent opposes. This is due, in part, to younger generations like millennials' – children born after 1981 – acceptance of gay rights, with 67 percent of the generation in support.
With some predicting that the US Supreme Court might shoot down gay marriage bans later this spring, it will be more incumbent on the culture of sports in general to be more inclusive to homosexuals. Homophobic language and attitudes still manifest themselves inside of team locker rooms from high school up through the professional ranks, as the sports world lags behind mainstream society in acceptance of homosexuals.
Jason Collins, a former player in the National Basketball Association, was the first openly gay athlete to play in one of North America's four major sports leagues, but he did not come out until late in his career. John Amaechi played for eight seasons in the NBA, but did not come out until after his career ended, following the 2002-03 season.
Michael Sam, the 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was attempting to become the first openly gay player in the National Football League but has yet to crack an NFL roster. Sam told ESPN there are more gay players in the NFL, but they are reluctant to come out. Glenn Burke was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976 and had come out to family and friends and was traded to the Oakland Athletics in 1978 but said discrimination forced him to retire from the game in 1979, and he died of AIDS in 1995, according to the Huffington Post. Former player Billy Bean played eight years in majors as closeted gay man from 1987 to 1995, and came out in 1999, according to his website.
Today, neither Major League Baseball nor the National Hockey League have an openly gay player in their respective leagues, though it may be naïve to think there are zero still-closeted players in both leagues.
But Saturday's cheering crowds might be a signal that baseball's cultural shift toward accepting gays and lesbians is genuine and not a marketing fabrication. It could be that the fans attitudes, too, are changing.
Even one player has taken it upon himself to encourage team's to use entertainment like a kiss cam responsibly between innings. Current Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy holds the opinion that it is homophobic when kiss cam operators show two heterosexual men and their often uncomfortable reactions in the name of getting a cheap laugh.
"They put two guys on the 'Kiss Cam' tonight. What hilarity!! (by hilarity I mean offensive homophobia)," McCarthy had tweeted (expletives on page) as a member of the Athletics in 2012. "Enough with this stupid trend ... the implication is that two guys kissing is funny. That's offensive to gay males ... Plus, it's cheap [expletive] comedy so it sucks on that level as well."