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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT