Never mind that the consequences for an athlete coming out as queer can be debilitating. It’s unfortunate that Robbie Rogers had to retire from professional football in England, and only returned to the game after Major League Soccer practically begged him to, promising him support and protection and good press. It’s unfortunate that Fallon Fox has so few entries in her professional fight record because so many MMA competitors- including, notably, Rhonda Rousey- refuse to fight her. It’s unfortunate that Michael Sam never got to play a single down in the NFL. Tragedies all, but regardless, some critics argue, queer athletes must declare their queerness publicly and center that queerness in their (heavily commodified) public image. Even if costs them their careers.
It presents an impossible choice for athletes. Navigate a treacherous maze of bigotry and erasure in order to pursue excellence, at the risk of not being the hero that some poor kid desperately needs; or potentially throw your career away, and deprive that kid of their hero anyway.