Kevin McClatchy, the former owner of baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates and the current head of McClatchy news group, publicly acknowledged his homosexuality for the first time in an interview with the New York Times, saying the sport's intolerance kept him from revealing that fact until years after his departure from the Pirates' front office.
In his column Saturday, Frank Bruni wrote about the dissonance McClatchy felt knowing that the choice to be open about his sexual orientation and his dream of owning a baseball team could not coincide. So, in 1996, when McClatchy became the youngest owner in major league baseball at the age of 33, he decided to keep that part of his life secret.
McClatchy said he was "angry" and "suspicious" during that time in his life, and he took pains to keep his players and the rest of the team management from learning the truth. During his time in the front office, McClatchy said he often heard homophobic language that convinced him to keep the truth secret.
His admission, made five years after leaving the Pirates, is a rarity in sports. No active player in major league baseball, nor in the nation's professional football, hockey and basketball leagues, has come out as gay.
Rick Welts, president and CEO of the NBA's Phoenix Suns made headlines last year for coming out after a 40-year career in sports. Like McClatchy, Welts said he had for years felt he could not publicly acknowledge that fact because of his career field.
"This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” Welts told the Times in 2011. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”
McClatchy echoed that sentiment about an absence of dialogue in his interview with Bruni.
"You’re not going to solve any problem until you start a dialogue,” he said. “And there’s no dialogue right now."
What little dialogue exists on the topic is not necessarily constructive either. Toronto Blue Jays' player Yunel Escobar was suspended for three games last week after it was discovered he'd written, "You are a faggot" on his eye black—the dark strips players wear beneath their eyes to mitigate the sun's glare—during a game.
In his interview with Bruni, McClatchy also revealed that his purchase of the Pirates was nearly derailed when someone unhappy with the deal threatened to out him if he went through it. That threat never materialized.