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Robbie Rogers didn’t apprehend to be by himself for long.

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Rogers, a midfielder for the Los Angeles Galaxy, fabricated account in 2013 aback he arise he was gay. A few months later, aback NBA centermost Jason Collins came out and NFL arresting end Michael Sam did the aforementioned in 2014, there was a prevailing activity that sports in America had angry a bend and were accessible for a beachcomber of able athletes to arise out of the closet and alive their lives chargeless from burden.

“I was acquisitive there’d be added athletes that would arise out, and afterwards that it aloof wouldn’t matter,” Rogers said. “I was acquisitive there would be so abounding out athletes that it wouldn’t be a affair to allocution about.”

But as hundreds of bags advice Chicago bless the advance the LGBTQ association has fabricated with a array Sunday, Rogers charcoal a abandoned one — the abandoned aboveboard gay macho amateur in America’s bristles above able sports leagues — the NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL and MLS. Assorted alive WNBA players accept arise out and thrived over the aftermost decade, ambience an archetype for adolescent women everywhere. The few men who accept approved on a able akin accept met resistance.

Collins is now retired from the NBA. Sam never played a bottomward in a regular-season NFL game. And no added able macho amateur has arise out except for David Denson, a 21-year-old outfielder who plays for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Class A associate of the Brewers.

There was no beachcomber and hardly alike a crawl of athletes advancing out in the deathwatch of Collins, Sam and Rogers.

To Rogers, it’s puzzling.

“I’m at the date area it’s affectionate of stupid. What’s activity on?” Rogers said. “I would never force anyone out, and anybody has their time, but arise on, it’s 2016. A lot has afflicted in the United States and about the world. Obviously there are a lot of rights to action (for) and a lot of abhorrence actuality adjoin the LGBT community, but it’s an befalling to be a role archetypal for millions and change the lives of kids not abandoned in sports but in our ability and about the world. It’s a little disheartening.”

This has happened admitting organizations like the You Can Comedy Activity alive to advance a added absolute atmosphere beyond all sports for gay athletes. Teams, leagues and commissioners accept apprenticed that gay athletes are acceptable to comedy for them. Yet the after-effects accept about changed.

Cyd Zeigler, one of the founders of Outsports.com, a website adherent to accoutrement gay issues in sports, said there’s a bright reason.

“People will try to point to the fans,” Zeigler said. “Some bodies will try to point to the coaches. Some will try to point to the advanced offices. Some will try to point to the media. But at the end of the day admitting all those things, cipher has called to do it. Amusing change happens aback somebody aloof decides to do it, and cipher absitively do to it.”

But there are affidavit why about cipher has absitively to do it. The abode to alpha is the locker room.

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LM Otero / AP

Michael Sam speaks to reporters afterwards a Cowboys convenance at the team’s address on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas.

Michael Sam speaks to reporters afterwards a Cowboys convenance at the team’s address on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas.

Diminishing phobia

Homophobia is a chat that generally gets associated with the sports world. Some may accept an angel of a locker allowance actuality a abode area gay bodies are put bottomward and area phobic slurs are befuddled about in a accidental manner. But bodies who assignment with gay athletes acquaint a altered story.

According to Wade Davis, a gay above NFL amateur who serves as the controlling administrator of the You Can Comedy Project, phobia is not different to sports. It exists in sports the way it exists in the blow of society.

“I’m not adage it doesn’t abide in the sports world,” Davis said. “I anticipate it’s able in the sports world, but you apprentice you can’t be out abundant sooner. Aback I accomplished I was gay in the 10th grade, I knew anon what I was activity was not OK, and that didn’t arise from me arena little alliance football. It came from television. It came from everywhere.”

Zeigler, columnist of “Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes are Claiming their Rightful Abode in Sports,” defied the angle that sports are inherently phobic. Allotment of what is befitting gay athletes closeted, Zeigler said, is the advancing heteroism that exists in locker rooms. Negative allocution about gay bodies is not the issue. Instead, it’s the analytical allocution about women.

“I don’t accept best able locker apartment accept a ton of phobic language. I talked to a lot of people,” Zeigler said. “But what does arise is connected heteroism, connected allocution about women, connected allocution about with women, women’s anatomy parts, objectifying women — that’s article a gay amateur has no affiliation to.

“He’s absolutely afar from that chat and it marginalizes him from what is a above allotment of men’s sports locker rooms. It’s not the connected uttering of (phobic slurs), it’s the connected chat about women and with women. If that afflicted in a locker allowance … that would change the activating for gay athletes.”

According to Rogers, the capital affair a closeted amateur has is how his teammates and coaches appearance him.

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“My bigger abhorrence was I was activity to go in the locker allowance and there would be whispers aback I absolved in,” Rogers said. “I didn’t affliction about stadiums, I didn’t affliction about agents. I cared added about how my teammates were activity to amusement me, how my drillmaster was activity to react. That’s the bigger thing. Guys are abashed of actuality advised abnormally by their teammates.”

To Davis, phobia and ism in locker apartment are interconnected. The aloofness of accent adjoin women spurs phobia.

“I anticipate the base of phobia is ism,” Davis said. “It’s so insidious and pervasive, it’s everywhere. Anytime you abide in a amplitude area you accept that actuality gay is activated to actuality anemic and like a woman, anytime you apprehend ist language, it about feels the exact aforementioned way.”

Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Jason Collins runs bottomward the cloister adjoin the Lakers at Staples Centermost on Feb. 23, 2014, in Los Angeles, Calif.

Jason Collins runs bottomward the cloister adjoin the Lakers at Staples Centermost on Feb. 23, 2014, in Los Angeles, Calif.

What it agency to be a man

The average that gay men are not as masculine, and therefore, weaker than beeline men is conceivably the best cogent hurdle gay athletes accept to overcome. It’s a average that has no base in actuality but one that has permeated the ability not aloof of sports, but association at large.

“We’ve been accomplished so abundant aback we were kids that gay is soft, ‘smear the queer’ and you don’t appetite to bandy like a babe or a fairy,” Zeigler said. “It’s so built-in in us that there’s a abstract amid that and phobia.”

But those account actualize abashing in gay athletes that they charge put on a able bluff so as not to arise anemic and to accommodate to civic norms of what it agency to be a boxy man. This played out in a alluring way aftermost division in the NFL involving Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Opposing players reportedly directed phobic slurs at Beckham because he acts abnormally than the academic NFL player. Beckham dyes his hair, wears fashionable clothing, and brand to ball — sometimes shirtless — with macho accompany in videos he posts on Instagram.

“I anticipate Odell is the litmus analysis to area we are,” Davis said. “Just the way he shows up as actuality not hetero-normative makes bodies uncomfortable. (To them) if you’re not acting in this actual specific way, aggregate alfresco of that is gay, weakness, beneath than. … The actuality that he can ball and accept fun with his friends, do all these videos, abrasion ‘skinny (or tight-fitting) jeans,’ all of that diminishes aggregate abroad he’s done to so abounding added men because Odell Beckham makes them uncomfortable.”

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The actuality that players like Beckham can advance in the sports apple is a absolute assurance to above MLB amateur Billy Bean, a gay man who is now MLB’s carnality admiral of admittance and amusing responsibility. It shows a adolescent bearing is not attenuated by the norms antecedent ancestors had of what it is to be masculine.

“Some of our acutely anchored stereotypes booty a continued time to unlearn,” Bean said. “I do anticipate there’s a actual absorbing about-face with our adolescence area those blazon of labels are disappearing. It’s actual absorbing to see this bearing array of move that old average away.”

This is a basic moment for LGBTQ rights in America. There are still reminders that abhorrence and bigotry exists adjoin LGBTQ people. The contempo deaths of 49 bodies at the easily of a apache at a gay bistro in Orlando, Fla., are a cutting admonition of that. But in abounding ways, there has never been a bigger time to be out. Gay alliance is acknowledged and assessment acclamation accept apparent Americans’ attitudes adjoin LGBTQ bodies accept become added positive. Sports abide a final borderland for LGBTQ bodies to conquer. Those few who accept approved accept met resistance.

What happened in Sam’s abrupt NFL career did not animate added closeted gay athletes who watched as Sam was out of the alliance after authoritative an alive NFL roster.

“That hurt,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler is determined that Sam would accept fabricated an alive agenda if Sam did not acknowledge his uality. Davis said there were abounding factors that contributed to Sam departure the NFL but added: “The honest acknowledgment is that he apparently would’ve had an easier aisle to still actuality in the NFL (if he didn’t arise out).”

Andy Kropa / Andy Kropa /Invision/AP

Jason Collins, left, and Michael Sam, right, appear the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Waldorf Astoria on Saturday, May 9, 2015, in New York.

Jason Collins, left, and Michael Sam, right, appear the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Waldorf Astoria on Saturday, May 9, 2015, in New York.

Going forward

So what needs to be done to anticipate a bearings like Sam’s from accident again? What needs to arise for the aing aboveboard gay amateur to advance like Rogers is or like those in the WNBA, area the atmosphere is added affable to out athletes?

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The You Can Comedy activity has formed with all the above sports leagues to advice advance an ambiance of accepting and accomplish sports a abode area gay athletes will feel adequate alive their lives in the open.

Zeigler said leagues, and accurately aggregation owners, charge to go a footfall further. The videos and accessible account announcements they aftermath “aren’t working” he said. Owners charge to booty a added alive role in anecdotic gay athletes — “They already apperceive (who the gay athletes are),” Zeigler said — and abetment them in advancing out.

They charge to go so far as to agreement them a atom on a aggregation and salary, Zeigler said. In added words some buyer has to appetite to be the Branch Rickey of gay athletes.

“If you appetite to accomplish change, you accept to be advised in your accomplishments and sometimes you accept to breach the rules and if guaranteeing somebody a bacon is allotment of that again that’s what you accept to do,” Zeigler said.

It’s a adventurous approach, one that ability be abstract for a cardinal of reasons, not the atomic of which is that the affair action for an abandoned is a complicated one that involves added than aloof the workplace.

“I apperceive Cyd actual well, and he absolutely is advancing in his opinions and he’s a warrior for the LGBT community, but (divulging) a person’s animal orientation, that’s a claimed accommodation for someone,” Bean said. “This is a claimed choice. It’s like who you appetite to ally or area you appetite to live. We don’t aces our animal orientation, but we do accept who we acquaint our not.”

One of the bigger fears closeted LGBT bodies accept is added bodies award out about their animal acclimatization afore they are accessible to acknowledge it. Any clue that bodies know, abnormally an employer, could set aback the action of advancing out.

“People would say gay players should arise out, but we still haven’t addressed what that abandoned is activity through,” Davis said. “There’s so abounding factors involved. If sports are safe, who’s to say that person’s ancestors is ready? Or that actuality may be dating addition and they’re not ready?”

Rogers said one affair teams could do is to action cerebral advice a closeted amateur may use as a aural lath for his problems.

“I do accept in all sports — I don’t anticipate there’s abundant of this — there needs to be added brainy help,” Rogers said.

For example, Bean went his absolute career, which included six seasons in MLB, after cogent anyone in his ancestors or on his aggregation he was gay, not alike aback his accomplice died.

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“The best moments I played in the big leagues I had my accomplice hidden secretively in my own home,” Bean said. “Our home, but it acquainted so amazing to feel accustomed with addition I loved. And aback he died, it aloof ripped me in half. I acquainted like I could not acquaint anybody. I couldn’t alike acquaint my parents, and my career it aloof went beeline bottomward the approach from there.”

One day the achievement is that athletes can alive their lives chargeless of the affliction Bean and others like him endured because they were gay and abashed of accident their jobs. Some accept said it would booty a superstar to arise out — addition who is defended in their career from a budgetary and achievement standpoint — to adapt attitudes adjoin adulthood and appearance that aboveboard gay athletes can curl in able sports.

“I don’t anticipate it’s activity to booty one of anything,” Davis said. “It’s activity to booty assorted people. It’s activity to booty assorted generations. No one person.”

But the capacity to accomplish it arise are in place. Leagues, teams and players are now added acquainted of how to actualize a affable ambiance for gay teammates, and they are still learning. For example, Andrew Shaw’s abeyance for application a phobic accusation during a playoff adventurous was an abrupt moment for the Blackhawks and the absolute NHL, which is the abandoned alliance that has not alike had a above amateur arise out of the closet. In years past, Shaw’s accomplishments would not accept garnered abundant attention. In April, it becoming a abeyance for a playoff game.

“That there is a aggregate momentum, that is admirable appropriate now,” Bean said.

There are still obstacles for gay athletes to affected in sports, and they aren’t as arty as they already were. Still, Rogers charcoal alone, like an affronted bandage baton attractive for some backup.

“I apperceive there are gay athletes out there,” Rogers said. “I’ve heard from them. I apperceive they exist, but it’s aloof a little frustrating. … I anticipate they don’t apprehend how abounding bodies they can advice by actuality out and actuality honest and accessible with people.”

And they can accessible doors that accept been bound for too long. Those doors are unlocking. They aloof charge bodies to go through.

chine@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChristopherHine

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