This weekend, Frank Bruni's op/ed story, "A New Inning, Late in the Game," revealed that 49-year-old Kevin McClatchey, a newspaper chain scion and former Pittsburgh Pirates owner, is gay and that he's kept it secret from most people for the past 30 years, as he states, "lying about my personal life."
As McClatchey told Bruni: "Tens of thousands of people have played either professional minor league baseball or major league baseball. Not one has come out and said that they're gay while they're playing."
McClatchey is not the first major-league executive or former executive to come out as gay. Last year, Rick Welts, the president and CEO of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, revealed his sexuality. And it's unclear that it was the bombshell that some may have expected. (Even Bruni states that Welts got the front page of the Times, while McClatchey is on the front page of the Sunday Review.) Ultimately, it seems like people aren't really sure what it means that McClatchey decided to come out at this point. As Bruni points out, it "could do considerable good" since "he remains well known in baseball... and is the chairman of the board of the McClatchy Company, which publishes more than two dozen newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and The Miami Herald."
ESPN.com interviewed one of their senior baseball writers, Jerry Crasnick, about what it meant for the game, and he seemed to give the sort of boilerplate response: someone of this stature coming out will make a difference for how the game treats homophobic slurs and hate speech.
"For Kevin McClatchey, it's a very personal and probably a painful decision," Crasnick says. "But he can probably consider himself a bit of a trailblazer. When someone of that name recognition and prominence comes out, it makes it a little bit easier for other people to come out after him. And it does help start the dialogue. As far as the game itself, a few days ago we were talking about Yunel Escobar, the shortstop for the Toronto Bluejays wearing eyeblack with a gay slur in it and he was suspended for three games, he apologized, and the team had to come out and say we don't condone this kind of behavior."
So there we get someone reasserting that deciding to come out is "painful," and of course there is the elephant in the room: The reinforcement that deciding to come out at 49, with a protective safety net, and after accomplishing so many life goals, is the way to do it. As McClatchey told Bruni: "I'm sure people will criticize me because I came out later, and I should have come out while I was in baseball and in the thick of it." Of course, many will just be happy to have further proof that they can be gay and dedicated baseball fans, since they often feel maligned by other gay men for being sports fanatics.
Of course, on many sports fan sites, the inevitable homophobic slurs are there, including the "butt pirate" jokes. One interesting angle is that many online commenters, including those on the Towleroad blog, are incensed that McClatchey is in a committed relationship, questioning what it must be like dating a closeted man. But it is a fact that remains true for many gay men and women no matter what sort of high-profile comings out and pop culture attention there may be. That is an additional dialogue that would be profound to get out in the open.
As The Advocate reported on Saturday, a new campaign called The Last Closet launched this week that is "calling on the five commissioners of pro sports leagues to proclaim their support for a gay player coming out. But so far all five are keeping quiet."