Actually, Jason Collins Isn't the First Openly Gay Man in a Major Pro SportMajor-league baseball player Glenn Burke was comfortably out to his teammates and friends
in 1976—but back then, it was the press that wasn't ready for a gay male athlete.
by Allen Barra / May 2 2013
[...] This week's coming out by NBA player Jason Collins is momentous, but the Jackie Robinson of gay rights was Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's from 1976 to 1979. He tried to change sports culture three decades ago—but back then, unlike now, sports culture wasn't ready for a change.
Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn't write that in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused.
An outstanding documentary, Out: The Glenn Burke Story by Bay Area filmmakers Doug Harris and Sean Maddison, was released in 2010 but remains little seen. If the film had been shown on ESPN, Burke might have finally gotten the credit he deserved. Jamie Lee Curtis, who bought the film rights to Burke's book years ago, now hopes, in the wake of Collins's revelations, to get a feature film on Burke into production.