There are plenty of heartening signs that professional sports is moving toward greater acceptance of LGBT players (see: Michael Sam), but they're usually met with follow-up signs that we just aren't there quite yet. This week, that reminder came from New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who told reporters on Tuesday that he could be okay with having a gay teammate join him in the locker room, but he still disagrees with the "lifestyle."
Murphy's comments came in response to a talk by former major leaguer Billy Bean, who is openly gay and now serves as MLB's Ambassador for Inclusion. Bean was invited to join the Mets in Florida by the team's general manager, Sandy Alderson, to discuss the importance of maintaining an open and accepting clubhouse, and welcoming players of different sexual orientations. Murphy seems to have taken away something from Bean's talk -- but he didn't totally get the message.
"I disagree with the lifestyle," Murphy, a devout Christian, first told the New York Daily News. “But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love a teammate who is gay. I was glad he was here today and to hear his story.” He expanded on his thoughts for NJ.com:
I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn't mean I can't still invest in him and get to know him. I don't think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.
On Wednesday, Bean published a compassionate response to Murphy's comments on MLB.com, circling back to his talk with the players about inclusion:
Expecting everyone to be supportive right away is simply not realistic. If you asked anyone who has competed in high-level men's professional sports, I believe they would agree with me. This doesn't change the way I go about my business, or my belief in what I am doing, but it's reality.
After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.
I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it's a start.
Bean notes that there's a clear silver lining to Murphy's comments: he did say he would be open to playing alongside a gay teammate. We can and should always hope for more -- maybe Murphy will stop considering homosexuality a "lifestyle," maybe he will one day consider it common sense to treat LGBT people with respect and dignity. But it's progress, however small, that there's room for hope at all.