Public opinion changes from time to time. In my short lifetime, I have never seen public opinion change as fast as it has changed on the issue of gay rights in America.
In 2008, Proposition 8 passed by 4.46 percent. It passed in the vast majority of counties in California. Prop 8 was essentially overturned a couple of months ago and garnered massive support from the media and the people.
There has been a total shift in the public opinion of the gay rights issue in a very short amount of time. The majority of people in America believe that homosexual people are equal to heterosexual people and deserve to be treated as such.
In the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated Jason Collins, veteran center of the NBA, became the first active male professional athlete to publicly announce his homosexuality. He received some negative feedback but the response was largely positive. Many predicted that Collins coming out would lead to other homosexual athletes feeling more comfortable being open with their sexuality.
Thursday as I rolled out of bed and looked over at my iPhone I saw a notification that made me pause for a second. WWE wrestler Darren Young announced via TMZ that he is gay. Twitter and the wrestling nerd websites I frequent blew up. This is the first high profile gay wrestler in quite a while.
Young is not the first WWE wrestler to be openly gay. As some pointed out on Twitter Orlando Jordan, a former WWE wrestler from 2003-2006, was openly gay. The difference is there was not Twitter back then and wrestling nerd sites were in their infancy. The fellow wrestlers and crew members backstage knew he was gay.
I know half of you saw this was an article about a political issue and rolled your eyes and a lot of people have already clicked back to the Patch homepage. And I know professional wrestling is not a sport and is not respected by some people. But this is a big deal in a few ways.
A big aspect of this story is it comes just days before WWE’s marquee pay-per-view Summerslam. Summerslam is one of “the big four” pay-per-views WWE has every year. It always takes place at Staples Center and always has a very appealing card. Some have accused Young of coming out to draw mainstream attention to Summerslam. Given WWE’s nature of absurd storylines and hunger for mainstream attention I understand the raising of the eyebrows.
There are two problems with this theory. The first problem is the Chairman of the WWE is Vince McMahon. His wife Linda ran for a Senate seat in Connecticut as a republican. She ran on fiscal issues and stayed away from moral issues but about half of the republican party is against gay rights. If she plans to continue a political career it would not be savvy of her to support a gay wrestler, which she has publicly.
Another problem is Darren Young is not a top player in WWE. He is on television sporadically and is part of a tag team called The Primetime Players. The Players are not household names like John Cena and Brock Lesnar. Young coming out will not draw many if any people to the Summerslam pay-per-view.
I have two concerns with Young coming out. I am concerned that WWE will exploit this and make Darren Young’s character gay. A big amount of the WWE audience is in the Midwest. A gay character might not be well received in these markets and booing a wrestler simply because he is gay will make the wrestling industry look even worse than it already does.
I am worried about the fans in general. Young has received a lot of support on social media from his peers and fans alike. But it only a takes a few people to treat Young badly or bring a sign with a homosexual slur to a show to make all fans look bad. That would put WWE in the mainstream headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Most wrestling nerds like myself do not have a strong opinion about Darren Young announcing he is gay. We still see Darren Young as a charismatic performer underutilized on television who could either be a big part of the WWE tag team scene or be forgotten about in ten years. But we all hope that this will help change the perception that professional wrestling fans are ignorant.