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Sadly, softball stereotype survives

During a week when Oklahoma City's springtime love affair with softball begins, an old photo of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has sparked an unexpected debate about sport and sexual orientation.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 15, 2010
If you play football, you are dumb.

If you play golf, you are arrogant.

If you play hockey, you are thuggish.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

A sport does not a personality trait make. Stereotypes might suggest otherwise, but anyone with any sense sees through the generalizations. They ignore the wackiness. They recognize the reality.

Except where softball is concerned.

If you play softball, you are gay.

That stupid stereotype is alive and well. We learned as much this week, the same week that the Big 12 tournament begins Oklahoma City’s springtime love affair with softball that culminates with the Women’s College World Series. We see the joy, the empowerment, the fun and the excitement in the sport.

Sadly, too many others see something else.

That realization came in an unexpected way. It started with a Supreme Court nomination, a prominent newspaper and a black-and-white photo.

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced Elena Kagan would be his nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. The next day, she was front and center in every major national media outlet, including the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper had a full page inside dedicated to Kagan’s nomination, and on the cover, it ran an old photo of her.

The picture was snapped during her days as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School. It was taken during a faculty outing.

A softball game.

The photo quickly sparked a raging online debate about Kagan’s sexuality. Speculation has existed for years that she is a lesbian. She never got married. She never had children. Add that to the fact that she once played softball, and the rumor mill went into overdrive that she must be gay.

Ryan Chittum wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review: "You don’t have to be a cynic to think that the Journal chose the 2-decade-old picture to imply Kagan is a lesbian.”

You might not have to be a cynic, but you might need to be a complete and total moron. It’s as idiotic as saying every football player is dumb; Rhodes Scholar turned NFL draftee Myron Rolle might take issue with that.

Thing is, there were plenty of folks who have made idiotic statements during this brouhaha.

John Wright, a writer for the gay and lesbian publication Dallas Voice, told Politico, "Personally, I think the newspaper … might as well have gone with a headline that said, ‘Lesbian or switch-hitter?’”

Cathy Renna, a gay and lesbian advocate, told the same website, "It is clearly an allusion to her being gay.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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