Skip to main content

Lust in the locker room: Get over it?

By Will Cain, CNN Contributor, and Chris Kluwe, Special to CNN
May 3, 2013 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Swimmer Ian Thorpe, seen here in 2004 with one of his five Olympic gold medals, told an Australian news outlet that he is gay in an interview that aired on Sunday, July 13. Click through to see other openly gay athletes. Swimmer Ian Thorpe, seen here in 2004 with one of his five Olympic gold medals, told an Australian news outlet that he is gay in an interview that aired on Sunday, July 13. Click through to see other openly gay athletes.
HIDE CAPTION
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
Openly gay athletes
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Will Cain and Chris Kluwe debate having openly gay athletes in the locker room
  • Cain: Larry Johnson's discomfort with openly gay athletes in the NBA is understandable
  • Kluwe: A person's sexual orientation shouldn't be a problem in a professional setting
  • Cain: Gay athletes shouldn't have to live a lie, but some people will be uncomfortable

Editor's note: Will Cain is a CNN contributor and co-host of Real News at The Blaze. Chris Kluwe is a punter for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. He is an ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization working to end homophobia in sports, as are Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens and Scott Fujita of the New Orleans Saints.

(CNN) -- On Monday, NBA player Jason Collins disclosed that he is gay, making him the first active openly homosexual athlete in the four major American pro team sports.

His coming out has been the big sports story of the week and has lots of people talking -- CNN contributor Will Cain and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe are no exception. Here's their discussion:

Will Cain: Chris, you, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita have done a noble job offering support to closeted gay NFL players. If I played in the NFL -- preferably for the Dallas Cowboys -- I would join you. A few months ago, you wrote a column on CNN.com laying out your position. I could not have joined you on that. I think you went too far when you said:

Players -- Those of you worried about a gay teammate checking out your ass in the shower, or hitting on you in the steam room, or bringing too much attention to the team -- I have four simple words for you. Grow the f*** up.

I am a pro-gay marriage conservative. And I'm pretty damn confident in my sexuality. If we all get naked and go to brunch, I'm not going to be uncomfortable. But that's not a standard I expect of everyone. Yet, all of sudden, this seems to be the standard.

Anyone uncomfortable sharing a locker room -- being naked -- with someone else who is potentially attracted to them is labeled "afraid of gay people," insecure or a homophobe. This is what happened to former NBA player Larry Johnson this week when he tweeted:

I don't Jason Collins personally but he seems like a great guy. Me personally gay men in the locked room would make me uncomfortable .

I think we're asking too much. Johnson's discomfort isn't illogical. And I bet he's hardly the only one who feels this way.

Chris Kluwe: I would counter that with this -- there was a time when white men were uncomfortable showering with black men, or having them in the locker room. But as long as someone respects your personal space and doesn't harass you (verbally, physically or sexually), I fail to see what their sexuality, religion, race or personal beliefs have to do with any comfort or discomfort you might feel.

Will Cain
Will Cain

Will: I don't think the black people-white people analogy is a good parallel. That was discomfort driven by racism. This is discomfort driven by potential sexual attraction. The better analogy is gender. Why do we have separate bathrooms for men and women?

Chris Kluwe
Chris Kluwe

Chris: No, this is discomfort driven by sexism. Has there ever been a single reported case of sexual harassment in a professional sports environment by one player toward another? What makes you think that because all of a sudden a player is allowed to openly be himself that he's immediately going to start mounting every guy in sight? Isn't that the very definition of narcissistic tendencies by straight men who think that way? What makes you think you're that player's type, or that he would ever be attracted to you?

One of the reasons we have separate bathrooms for women and men is because men have a long history of violent behavior toward women, particularly when they feel women are vulnerable. And so we have separated the sexes in those situations.

Are you telling me that a professional athlete wouldn't be able to defend himself in the shower if a gay teammate suddenly decided, despite every single social norm we are raised with, that he was going to start humping his teammate's leg in a work environment?

Will: No. I'm not telling you that. I'm not making any of the arguments you just blasted.

You're right, one of the reasons we have separate men and women bathrooms is the potential for violence. But another reason is due to the discomfort of being checked out by someone who could be attracted to you. No honest straight man can say if he was put in a locker room full of naked ladies he wouldn't check out one, a few, or all of the women. It wouldn't be creepy, it wouldn't be deviant -- it would be normal. And no one would suggest in that situation: Get over yourselves ladies, don't be so narcissistic, your discomfort is your problem.

Kluwe: Risk in being openly gay in NFL
Former NFL player comes out
Ben Shapiro: Jason Collins not a hero
Butler: Speech axed over Collins tweet

The argument that I'm actually making is that potential sexual attraction creates a new dynamic in the locker room. And while it doesn't make me uncomfortable, I think it's absurd to say someone like Larry Johnson's discomfort is illogical.

In the end, I don't have a solution to this problem. It isn't for players to live a lie and stay in the closet. But the lack of a solution doesn't require us to veer so far into political correctness to pretend there isn't a problem.

Chris: But here's the thing. There have been gay athletes before. We know this because several of them have come out (Jason Collins while active, others after they were done playing). Simple statistics say there have to have been many others that never came out. And yet, somehow, there's never been a single reported incident of one athlete sexually assaulting another athlete, whether it's in the shower or anywhere else in the locker room.

Essentially, what you're arguing is that because something that has never before happened in the entire history of professional sports might possibly maybe potentially happen if someone were to absolutely lose their mind and ignore every standard of decency and common behavior that we learn from a very young age, that we should force people to live a lie.

I find I can live with the discomfort of people who can't wrap their minds around the idea that the world does not revolve around them. They can always shower somewhere else if it bugs them that much. I'll be in there dropping the soap, perfectly secure in the knowledge that I have a wife who loves me, whom I love back, and that there is an HR department in my organization I can turn to if something inappropriate were to occur. In fact, I'd probably be flattered if someone told me I looked good.

I'm comfortable with who I am. Other people deserve the same chance.

Will: No, again, that's not what I'm arguing. I didn't mention sexual harassment. I certainly didn't mention sexual assault. I did specifically mention "living a lie" and said no one should be forced to do that.

I am only recognizing reality and human nature and observing that people will get checked out. Getting checked out would flatter you. It would flatter me. But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't flatter everyone. Take a quick poll of all the ladies you know about how they feel when they're ogled. Would they all feel flattered?

I don't care if gay guys are in the locker room. I care about intellectual consistency. If people like Larry Johnson, who are uncomfortable, get labeled as homophobes ... then any ladies who have a problem with you in the locker room are prudes.

Again, I don't care ... we can all meet up in the showers at the YWCA this afternoon. Or we become more understanding of other's discomfort. You get it one way or the other. Trying to split the difference is just politically correct emotionalism.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Will Cain and Chris Kluwe.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT