One week ago, NBA player Jason Collins became the first athlete in a major U.S. sport to come out as gay. Former Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy came out in September, but it wasn't until Collins' announcement that he felt compelled to open up. He spoke to Bob Pompeani of CBS Pittsburgh about living a double life and waiting to come out during his first local interview in five years.
“It scared me to death that the story would get out, and I did live in fear,” said McClatchy when asked about keeping his sexuality secret. "It's awful and it wears you down, and you're always worried about something happening, or somebody saying something. It's frightening really. You go to a dark place, and I had been there a few times. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.”
McClatchy, who owned the team from 1996-2007, added he was worried rumors about his sexuality would hurt the chances of keeping the team in Pittsburgh. He worked to secure financing for PNC Park, which opened in 2001 and is widely regarded as one of the very best ballparks in Major League Baseball.
Now that Collins has come out and other players will inevitably join him at some point, the 50-year-old McClatchy wants to see sports create a culture of acceptance. He spoke more about it in part two of his video interview, which can be seen right here.
“I was around the culture -- and granted, I've been gone from the game the last five years, so things were a little worse five years ago and worse ten years ago -- but the culture could use a little bit of educating on how people deal with the topic or even talk about it," he said while discussing whether sports were ready for more gay players. "You have to have dialogue and there was no dialogue from the commissioner's office and down.”
“I think it should happen on the commissioner's office on down," he added. "Talking to their coaches, major league coaches, minor league, college coaches, high school coaches, that if there's a gay kid, treat him like everyone else ... Can I do both, be a gay person and play sports, and for most people, at least when I was growing up it was terrifying. And if it helps a kid, the teen suicide rate among gay kids is four times as high as regular kids, and I think they have enough pressure on them.”
When he came out to the New York Times in September, McClatchy said there was "no way I want to go into the rest of my existence and ever have to hide my personal life again." He was sick of hiding his sexuality, a feeling that a number of professional athletes surely share today.
"We have men and women in the armed forces that are openly gay that are risking their lives every day overseas," he said. "They get into the same showers as other guys and they've had no problems since don't ask, don't tell went through. We have firefighters, police officers, but there's this arrogance in sports that we can't do it, well, baloney.”