Sam Kennedy on 'Two Outs:' It's 'just matter of time' before MLB player comes out

Alex Reimer
June 08, 2018 - 12:38 pm

From the outside, it remains hard to believe there isn’t an active openly gay player in any of the five major professional sports leagues. It seemed like there was a breakthrough roughly five years ago, when Jason Collins came out at the end of his NBA career, Michael Sam announced he was gay prior to the NFL Draft, and Robbie Rogers hoisted the MLS Cup as an openly gay member of the LA Galaxy. 

Since then, there’s been silence. But Red Sox president Sam Kennedy doesn’t think there will be for long. In an interview this week on “Two Outs,” he says he thinks a professional baseball player will come out in the foreseeable future. 

“It's just a matter of time until we have a Major League Baseball player come out –– an active player,” he told me. “It's something that will happen. It's just a question of when.”

The Red Sox held their sixth annual Pride Night Thursday, welcoming members of the LGBT community to Fenway Park. The team even painted its logo in rainbow colors as a decal on the pitching mound to celebrate Pride Week. 

Professional sports leagues have prioritized LGBT outreach in recent years. MLB named gay ex-ballplayer Billy Bean its Ambassador of Inclusion and has him speak with each team during Spring Training. All but two MLB clubs hold Pride Nights each season. 

MLB will also march in the New York City Pride Parade for the first time this year, along with representatives from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS and WNBA. The NFL has long promoted LGBT rights, threatening to move Super Bowls out of Arizona and Georgia if they passed anti-LGBT referendums. Both state's conservative governors rejected the legislation. 

Despite those efforts at the corporate level, players apparently still don’t feel comfortable coming forward. Kennedy says each league must try to be as inclusive as possible. 

“I assume it's just something where baseball players have not felt comfortable coming out for whatever reason,” he said. “It's our job as an industry in baseball and individual clubs to create a welcoming and supportive environment for when that time is right. I don't have the answers; I don't pretend to have the answers. But we want to make sure if and when that time comes, we're as supportive as possible.”

In addition to stressing inclusion, Kennedy says LGBT outreach is a smart business strategy as well. 

“The (LGBT) community is a huge part of our community at-large, so from a business perspective, you want to make sure you're out there and sending the message that everyone is welcome,” he explained. “We recognize there are lots of ticket buyers, lots of fans in the LGBTQ community that support us through sponsorship, through buying tickets. It's really important. So it's a business strategy as much as it is a community outreach strategy.”