August 19, 2013
Darren Young, a WWE wrestling star recently came out of the closet. The NBA veteran, Jason Collins, started the trend of athletes in major sports openly talking about their sexuality and Young followed suit unprompted. When asked by a TMZ reporter if a gay wrestler in his sport could survive, he said:
“Absolutely, look at me. I’m a WWE superstar and to be honest, I’ll tell you right now. I’m gay. And I’m happy. I’m very happy.”
He also said,
“I guess if you wanna call it ‘coming out’—I’m just letting you know. I’m comfortable with who I am, and I’m happy to be living the dream.
This announcement shocked the world-wide community of wrestling fans, and has prompted comments that ranged from proud and supportive to acerbic and downright hateful. Not surprisingly, the more low-brow audiences that watch professional wrestling as a whole has not been particularly approving of the star coming out. But, wrestling fans should not have been surprised. When there is forum where only muscle-bound men oil themselves and roll around on the ground grappling with each other, then you have to assume that there are some athletes that gravitate to wrestling only because they want to roll around on the floor with sculpted, muscular men in oil.
The existence of a gay professional wrestler is not at all surprising. What has been surprising about this story is how well the wrestling community itself has taken this news considering the testosterone fueled sport. From the moment that this story broke, the wrestlers of WWE have been completely supportive and encouraging of Young. John Cena and Stephanie McMahon made public statements on Twitter and in several fora to praise Darren Young for his bravery.
Cena said this:
Oh wonderful…that’s fantastic. I know Darren personally, he’s a great guy. That’s a very bold move for him, and congratulations to him for finally doing it. It’s all about being professional, and Darren is a consummate professional. For us, it’s all about entertainment. And if you’re entertaining, you shouldn’t be judged by race, creed, or color…as long as you’re entertaining, and he is.
There will never be another time in history that this statement is made, but the following comment is true. We should look to professional wrestling to learn how to practice tolerance. Wrestling has supported Pat Patterson, the close friend of Vince McMahon when he came out of the closet after his career had ended. Wrestling has overplayed stereotypes to add to the glamour and hyperbole of the sport, but they have also been completely tolerant of race, size, and sexual orientation throughout its history. Surprisingly, the WWE has made television ads against bullying in schools and supports education. We could all learn a lot from wrestling.