Former Columbus Crew Player, Dave Testo, Comes Out; Who Is Next?
What an amazing topic to write about for my first blog post for the 3rd year of this blog: Dave Testo, a former MLS player of the Columbus Crew, comes out! I first saw the news in Outsports, which linked to two news sources: a Canadian news article (unfortunately in French, so you’ll have to run it through a translator to read) and an interview.
Outsports quoted a portion of Testo’s remarks as translated:
“I really regret not having said publicly earlier. I fought with it all my life, my whole career. Living the life of a professional athlete and being gay is incredibly difficult. It is like wearing a secret in his bags but never yourself. It saps all your energy to you, in addition to having to perform, having to play.”
From the interview segment, Testo added:
“It’s made me realize that life is so much greater than just soccer and winning and losing. It’s about the relationships you build with the people around you. In the end, when you’re laying down on your death bed, it’s not about how much money you’ve made, how many wins you have, any of that. You want to know those connections you had to people and the difference you made in people’s lives.”
Testo becomes the first American professional soccer player to come out, and in doing so, MLS joins MLB (Billy Bean), NBA (John Amaechi), and NFL (Dave Kopay, Esera Tuaolo, Roy Simmons) as having a former player come out. Come on NHL!
Unlike the other athletes who have come out after retiring Testo is still active in his professional pursuits. While he is not currently on an MLS roster, he most recently played with the Montreal Impact—a team joining the MLS next season.
It’s a shame he is no longer on the Impact roster, as his coming out would be even more groundbreaking if he was openly gay and on an active, professional, male-team-sport roster. Regardless, at only age 30, he still has a chance to make it back to the MLS ranks, and I hope he is able to do so!
Testo’s coming out contributes to the incremental tearing down of the gay-barrier in sports. The incremental progress lends to the question: what could be next?
A retired NHL player
An obvious progression would be for a retired NHL player to come out. In many respects the NHL has shown to be the most accepting environments of the main professional sports leagues. Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers (and the subject of my previous blog post), cited to a 2006 Sports Illustrated study that nearly 80% of NHL players would support an openly gay teammate. He attributes this significant percentage to how the NHL is different from the other major professional sports leagues in America: many of the players are foreign, coming from more liberal countries.
As the culture of hockey is more progressive (contrary to the rough-and-tough image of the sport/players), I think this could happen easily within the next year.
A “big-name” retired player
While everyone is waiting for the first active player to come out, I think a step that needs to (and will have to) happen first is a “big-name” retired player coming out. “Big-name” being a name those who follow the sport only superficially would know. A player that is a regular starter, that makes the all-star tournament, that might go to a hall of fame.
To date, the names of those who have come out are really only known because they came out. Bean, Amaechi, Kopay, Tuaolo, Simmons, and now Testo, were not household names during their playing careers. They weren’t All-Stars, Pro Bowlers, or Hall of Famers. These are the types of players that would have legitimate worries about coming out while still playing. They were expendable.
In order for a player of comparable caliber to feel safe coming out while playing, a big-name player needs to come out, even if while retired, to send the message, “Yeah, I’m gay, and guess what, I was an all-star, am in the hall of fame, and helped my team win championships.”
In some respects, it’s sad that we value winning and success so much that this matters. We—the fans, media, society, teammates, etc.—should support a guy on the verge of being cut as much as we’d support the player we’ve known and cheered for years. But the reality is that the amount of impact a coming out has is proportionate to the caliber of the player.
So, with that, we need that “big-name” player to come out. And believe me, they’re out there.
Like a retired NHL player coming out, I think this could happen in the next year.
An active player
Many consider an active male player on a professional American team coming out to be THE story. It could be the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and maybe even MLS (or, for soccer, an EPL player coming out would have even more impact, especially globally).
That is going to be, supposedly, the quintessential moment that officially marks “the gay barrier” being torn down. At that point, all of those questions that people have only theorized about are faced: What does the team/league do? How do teammates react? What about the locker room and the showers? How do fans react (both supporting the team and rivals)? How do opponents on the field/ice/court react? How does the player play? How does the media cover the player?
So far, all of these questions have been answered with speculation.
And that speculation continues in trying to answer when this will happen and what sport it will be in.
My opinion: it will happen within 5 years, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if I read about it tomorrow.