NBA player Jason Collins was widely hailed this week — and obliquely vilified — for becoming the first openly gay active pro athlete in a major men's sport. He isn't, says Allen Barra at The Atlantic. "The Jackie Robinson of gay rights was Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's from 1976 to 1979." If you didn't know that, you're not alone. Thanks to a deafening silence from MLB officials and the sports media, "Burke is remembered less today as a pioneer for gay rights and more as the man who, along with Dusty Baker, invented the 'high five,'" says Barra. Here's an excerpt:
Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn't write that in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage....
The media in general and the sports media in particular found Burke's homosexuality an inconvenient truth. He told People, "I think everyone just pretended not to hear me. It just wasn't a story they were ready to hear."
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