Former Owner of Pittsburgh Pirates Comes Out

By Abby Ellin

Sep 22, 2012 9:19pm
gty kevin mcclatchy jt 120922 wblog Former Owner of Pittsburgh Pirates Comes Out

                                                  (Image credit: Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Kevin McClatchy, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, has an announcement: He’s gay.

After years of soul searching and hiding his sexuality, McClatchy, now 49, came out to the New York Times.

In the interview, McClatchy, who was the public face of the Pirates for 11 years, said that he felt obligated to go public.

“I’ve spent 30 years — or whatever the number is specifically — not talking about my personal life, lying about my personal life,” he said. “There’s no way I want to go into the rest of my existence and ever have to hide my personal life again.”

McClatchy, who lives with his partner of four years, Jack Basilone, is one of  only a handful of people in professional sports to come out. Indeed, despite the fact that gays and lesbians are openly portrayed on television shows, and few athletes talk about their own sexual preferences. No active male football, baseball, basketball or hockey player has come out publicly.

But some have come out after the fact; The Times has published a timeline here. Among them is Rick Welts, the former president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns, and current president and Chief Operating Officer of the Golden State Warriors basketball team. Wade Davis, a retired NFL cornerback, also came out publicly and works with lesbian, gay and transgender youth in New York.

“You just want to be one of the guys, and you don’t want to lose that sense of family,” Davis told Outsports.com. “Your biggest fear is that you’ll lose that camaraderie and family.

Even those simply in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage catch flack, as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo recently discovered, after he  posted a video on YouTube backing Maryland’s November’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage and donated football tickets to a fundraiser for Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

His actions acts caught the attention of a Maryland state delegate, Emmett C. Burns Jr., who is against gay marriage.  Burns sent a letter to the Ravens’ owner, Steve Bisciotti, urging him to “inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.”

His letter was so vitriolic that it inspired Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to write a scathing response on Deadspin.com.

“I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life,” Kluwe wrote. “They won’t come into your house and steal your children … They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population — rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children.”

Last week, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended for wearing eyeblack tape on which he had scribbled an anti-gay slur.

McClatchy, who is now the chairman of the board of the McClatchy Company, which publishes more than two dozen newspapers,  said he expects some people to react negatively to his announcement.

“I’m sure people will criticize me because I came out later, and I should have come out while I was in baseball and in the thick of it,” he told The Times.

But he said he’s willing to rake the risk. “You’re not going to solve any problem until you start a dialogue, and there’s no dialogue right now.”

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