‘The Last Barrier’ Looks At Controversial Topic, Stirs Discussion
New Documentary Gay Athletes In Pro Sports Airs Saturday
If you stop and think for a moment, the subjects of professional sports and openly gay players seem to be mutually exclusive terms–particularly in contact sports such as football or hockey.
By Nathan James
Amani Toomer, NFL veteran
and NBC Sports NFL analyst
We’ve heard many iterations of expressed homophobia, where players say they’d be–at a minimum–”uncomfortable” with the idea of a gay teammate. Former Miami Heat point guard Tim Hardaway’s notorious 2007 rant, “I hate gay people. I don’t like to be around gay people”, is just one particularly ugly example.
But recently, Ted Griggs, president of Comcast Sports Net in the San Francisco Bay Area, has produced a one-hour TV special, The Last Barrier, that re-examines coming out in professional sports. ”We were doing a 20-30 minute show, Xfinity Sports Sunday, where we explored this, but we didn’t think it was long enough to do the subject justice”.
The Last Barrier is an in-depth look at the possibility of out athletes playing in the big leagues, like the NFL or NBA.
Rick Welts, Warriors President
“The subject of out athletes is much more relevant today than in the past,” says Griggs. ”We did not want to take an advocacy position [in the film], but rather, we allowed the sports community to comment on whether the barrier would be broken in the next five years.”
Such notable players as Chris Kluwe of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, and NBC Sports analyst Amani Toomer are among those weighing in on the often-avoided subject.”The NHL has really taken the lead on this,” observes Griggs, “particularly Patrick Burke and his father, Brian Burke, who have involved the top players in the league. If you can play [they say], you can play.” Societal changes will also bring the day closer when openly gay athletes can participate in the major leagues, Griggs notes. ”Today, even among the fans, everyone knows a friend or relative that is gay, or are gay themselves.”
Chris Kluwe, Vikings punter
“Our goal,” Griggs summarizes, “is to generate discussion. Get people talking, wherever they are. People can discuss this topic with friends and family, and more open-mindedness will lead to more acceptance.”
The documentary will be shown at 3 PM PT, this Saturday on NBC Bay Area, with a re-broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.