Kevin McClatchy, the former owner of Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates, opened up to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts in an interview on Thursday (27 September) about his difficult years as a closeted gay man in professional sports.
Making an already precarious situation worse was when someone who knew McClatchy was gay threatened to out him.
‘There was a constant fear,’ he told Roberts, one of the cable channel’s openly gay anchors. ‘You live with it and you were sort of on eggshells. For the 12 years or so that I was in the game I was constantly nervous that somebody would find out and in some way that would bring my involvement to and end and in some way hurt the team. It’s a pretty frightening experience and you definitely feel isolated, you feel alone and that’s not a great place.’
In 1996, the then 33-year-old, become the youngest owner of an US baseball team. Up until 2007, he was the team’s managing general partner and chief executive officer.
Roberts asked how McClatchy was able to keep people from prying in his personal life while he ran the team.
‘It was just a subject that was never brought up when I was in baseball and never really talked about. To me it was clear that it was a taboo issue that you just couldn’t really discuss.’
So why come out publicly now?
‘I think everybody has that time when they feel comfortable and for me, that time had come,’ he said. ‘While I was in baseball, there was a lot of challenges in front of (the team) and I never really felt that telling my story was going to help (the team).’
‘After getting out of the game and spending some time doing some other things, I felt it was the right time,’ he added. ‘I think it’s, hopefully, going to be helpful to other folks that are trying to get in sports or think there’s some kind of ceiling why they can’t.’
He points out that in the past 40 years, no active professional male athlete in the major US sports of baseball, football, basketball and hockey has ever come out during their playing careers and less than a dozen have after retiring.
‘I think sports needs to do a better job than it’s done,’ McClatchy says. ‘Sports have a long way to go.’
‘My hope is that any kid coming forward in 2012 will not have to have that silence with their family or their friends or anybody else. I’m hoping we’ve progressed quite a bit as a society.’