Athletes are in a unique position when it comes to working with homosexuals—they have to share a locker room with them.
“Guys do crazy stuff in the locker room and showers and it would potentially make a gay teammate feel uncomfortable,” said senior men’s soccer player John Shipley. “It’s tough to regulate.”
The athletic department is aware that such an issue could exist even though Geneva is a Christian college.
“We [as an athletic department] aren’t naive enough to think that [homosexual struggles] aren’t happening,” said Interim Athletic Director Van Zanic. “I believe they are.”
Head cross-country and track-and-field coach Brian Yowler said that if he were made aware of a homosexual athlete, he would go to certain measures to help him or her avoid the temptations of a same-sex attraction.
“I think I would want to first have a conversation with that athlete to see how they feel about being in the locker room and having same-sex attractions,” he said. “If it’s something that they are trying to battle against, I wouldn’t want them in the locker room. I wouldn’t want to contribute to that temptation.”
The Cabinet polled Geneva College athletes this week on how they would react to sharing a locker room with a homosexual teammate. The vast majority of responses would suggest that a homosexual athlete at Geneva would be accepted.
Male athletes, particularly football players, are stereotypically homophobic thanks to homophobic comments made by NFL players like Mike Wallace, Garrison Hearst and Chris Culliver. Sometimes that stereotype—and others like it—is a misconception within Geneva locker rooms.
The fact that a team parallels a family allows many athletes to be more open and understanding of the person while not agreeing with their actions and lifestyle choices.
“We’re all brothers,” said sophomore men’s soccer player Kyle Terrill. “We would all accept the guy, just not what he does.”
Admitting that she may be uncomfortable at first, junior women’s basketball player Becca Sargent echoed Terrill.
“I would love them no matter what,” she said. “I mean, teammates are your family. I don’t agree with what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to show them love.”
“It’s never really bothered me; it’s still a team. I’m there to play softball … I judge people not by their orientation, but by how they play on the team.”
Even the homophobic stereotype for football players came crashing down when a group of them admitted that—although it would be a little uncomfortable at first—as long as they were helping the team, that’s what mattered.
“Having a gay athlete in the locker room doesn’t change the atmosphere of the team,” said senior Rashad Briscoe. “We’re a family. We treat everyone the same, even though someone may have different beliefs … Who are we to turn down and say someone is wrong just because of what they believe in? That one person who may be gay may be what helps us win the conference championship.”
Sophomore softball player Dayna Hicks agrees.
“It’s never really bothered me; it’s still a team,” she said. “I’m there to play softball … I judge people not by their orientation, but by how they play on the team.”
For other athletes, having a teammate who struggles with same-sex attraction is more of a taboo topic. Several athletes admitted that while they would be accepting out in public, it is absolutely unacceptable in a locker room setting. Others admitted that finding out that a teammate had same-sex attractions would make them automatically see him or her in a different light.
Junior track and field athlete Tori Trapanick said she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable because she feels there is “a common misconception with people who struggle with homosexuality that they are just looking at anyone in the locker room.”
“I would play it situation by situation,” she added. “I don’t think it’s a situation that needs blown out of proportion. In fact, I think that it would be more beneficial to embrace that teammate than to push them away.”
The consensus from the athletes is that homosexual teammates should be accepted, that they are people who battle temptations just like everyone else. A sin is a sin. And while many like Hicks, Briscoe and others have played with teammates who do struggle with this sin, they have all learned that, as Christians, they have a responsibility to love these teammates as a brother or sister in Christ created in his image.