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Out on the sports page: Ed Gray has covered the Boston Red Sox and the Patriots for two decades, and now his readers know he's gay.

Unable to tolerate what he called "unabashed homophobia" in professional sports, veteran sportswriter Ed Gray tackled the issue by penning a September 30 column in which he came out of the closet--creating a minor cause celebre in sports circles.

Gray, 55, has covered a wide variety of sports, including baseball, football, mid horse racing, his current beat, in two decades at the Boston Herald.

In his column, headlined "Out and Proud," Gray decried professional sports as the last bastion of tacit and sometimes hostilely overt homophobia. He cited comments by San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst, who last year said, "I don't want any faggots on my team," and other jocks who have made antigay remarks in recent years.

The Boston native received hundreds of E-mails, phone calls, and letters, 99% of which were supportive of his coming-out column, he says.

The Advocate spoke with Gray about his decision to step out of the closet professionally and address the issue of homophobia in sports, from the newsroom to the locker room.

You take a tough stand in your column. How does coming out combat entrenched homophobia in sports?

As long as everyone stays silent and nobody holds athletes accountable for their homophobic remarks, the homophobic atmosphere is allowed to persist. By remaining silent and closeted professionally [I felt] I was enabling the homophobia as well.

You wrote that no "openly gay athlete should be denied the right to play a team sport without fear of becoming a target of prejudice." How about journalists?

Gay men should be able to play sports, and gay men should be able to report on them.

You've been covering sports for two decades. Why come out now?

Without getting into too much of my personal life, everyone has a life's journey, and I arrived at a point where I was able to achieve an incredible feeling of well-being and serenity.

Have you ever been the target of homophobic remarks by peers or players you've covered?

No. I think a lot of people think that maybe there was some incident that spurred this. There really wasn't an incident--just the general atmosphere. Something doesn't have to happen to you to recognize that there's a problem.

How did your editors respond?

The editors at Boston Herald have been nothing but supportive.

Were you already out in the newsroom?

Yeah. I just wanted to write the column. It was always on my mind. But certainly one of the major intents was to come out professionally.

What about your colleagues in the sports department?

They don't treat me any differently. We're always kidding each other, They are incredible people.

Is homophobia more prevalent in some sports than others?

You pretty much see homophobic remarks coming from everywhere.

Even horse racing?

It's not so much a team sport, so I don't think that it comes up too much.

So you see it more in team sports?

Yeah, definitely. There's the whole locker room thing.

Do you think being out will affect your ability to report?

Absolutely not. No more than being closeted did. My message was not to be confrontational and [create] an adversarial relationship with athletes. My belief is that most athletes couldn't care less. Once the professional sports leagues set a policy and send a message that all acts of prejudice will be held accountable, then I think the atmosphere crumbles. Even though there is a homophobic atmosphere about sports, I don't think the vast majority [of athletes] are responsible for it.

What has been the reaction from players so far?

I covered a college football game on Saturday, and I covered the Patriots on Sunday, and it was like any other games, any other weekend.

Have any athletes you're covering spoken to you about your column?

No, they're too busy.

Can being an out journalist push the envelope for more pro athletes to come out?

The way I push the envelope is to keep doing my job with as much integrity as I possibly can.

Have any gay athletes confided in you since your column?

No.

Why do you think the locker room fear persists?

I think it's like an irrational fear. It's such a big issue because it's the one thing people can use to explain why they're homophobic. Otherwise there would be no way they could explain it. A gay journalist goes into a locker room, and believe me, with deadlines and being professional and trying to get information to write your story, this is just not an issue at all.

How long have you been out in other aspects of your life?

I'd really rather not discuss that. I think that clouds the message.

Do you have a partner?

I don't think that's part of my message. Being gay is enough [laughs].

Any regrets?

None whatsoever. And I'm not even going to regret that I didn't do it sooner.

Robson has also written for The Wall Street Journal and Tennis magazine.
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Title Annotation:Media
Author:Robson, Douglas
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 11, 2003
Words:827
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