Athlete's Racy Pics Stir Questions of Privacy, Sexuality

Nude and racy photographs of a National Hockey League top draft pick that were posted widely on the Internet have raised questions about responsible online behavior for people in the public eye, and also about sexuality in Major League sports.

Toronto Maple Leaf forward Jiri Tlusty, 19, originally posted the photos on his Facebook page, according to The Toronto Sun, which first broke the story. One of those pictures show Tlusty nearly touching tongues with another man.

Other images that depict the player nude have turned up on various Internet sites and blogs. Those were cell phone photos the player apparently sent to a woman he met on the Internet, who then posted them.

Tlusty apologized publicly for the photographs, and in a statement released by the Leafs said that he had "learned a valuable lesson."

Tlusty's actions were a "naïve mistake as a teenager," John Ferguson, the general manager of the team, said in a statement provided to ABCNEWS.com. It's a "lesson in how something private can easily become very public in the Internet age."

And while Tlusty did deny he is gay or even bisexual, the reactions to the photos largely focused around Internet safety. The incident is a sign that the increasing number of private photos getting leaked on the Internet underscores the care people, both ordinary and celebrity, need to take, experts told ABCNEWS.com.

"We have so many more users around the world taking advantage of these new technologies that we are seeing more instances of people making mistakes," said Arthur Cockfield, a cyberspace guru at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada. "[This hockey player] probably thought he set his privacy settings and that the picture wouldn't get out."

And as if the Maple Leafs hadn't had enough media attention, "Breakfast With Scot" a fictional movie about a gay hockey player -- donning the Maple Leaf team logo -- premiered in theaters just last week.

This is the first instance of a Major League team permitting its name to be used in a movie with a plot hinging on homosexuality, according to a New York Times columnist, who also hailed the Leafs for delivering "a fissure to a homophobic culture of sports."

But it's questionable whether one team brushing aside racy online photos as an immature mistake and openly allowing its logo in a movie about a gay player paves the way for an active gay professional athlete to come out. Many people in tune with the sports world argue that is still highly unlikely.

Professional Sports Don't Foster Openness

"There's a lot of closed-mindedness when it comes to any outside issues -- whether it's homosexuality or sexual abuse or drug addiction," said Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL star who played for the Detroit Red Wings. "[Hockey] players are kept in fear to keep their mouths shut because if you rock the boat, you'll get buried, and in sports you can be buried so fast. Nobody says anything about anything, that's just the way it is."

In 1996, Kennedy wrote a book, "Why I Didn't Say Anything," chronicling the years he spent playing for a Canadian junior league hockey team whose coach molested him.

"When there is fear hanging over your head, you don't say anything," Kennedy told ABCNEWS.com. "There is this fear of an individual who shows any type of weakness or holes that people can dig at."

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