A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service (PRRI/RNS) found that 74 percent of Americans support professional sports teams signing gay or lesbian athletes.
Only eight percent of Americans surveyed said they were strongly opposed to professional sports teams signing an LGBT athlete, and 11 percent answered they were opposed.
“Jason Collins’ coming out started a new path for athletes that are now able to envision their career as an openly gay or lesbian athlete,” said Marie Houzeau, co-president of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA). “That mirrors the evolution of our society.”
Politically, 66 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats said they would support teams signing LGBT players.
According to the survey, white evangelical Protestants had the highest percentage of those that opposed the question, as 36 percent responded with “opposed” or “strongly opposed.”
A pre-World Cup poll surveyed soccer fans from around the world and found most Europeans and North Americans support openly gay players on their national soccer teams. However, the United States had one of the smallest majorities at just 52 percent.
Researchers at PRRI/RNS speculated if Americans would feel differently if a lesbian or gay athlete was signed to their favorite, or hometown, team, but they did not find any sign of that, according to Dan Cox, Research Director at PRI.
The survey also found 56 percent of Americans believe gay, lesbian and bisexual players are faced with discrimination when it comes to being in the sports world.
“As for the 19 percent [that is still opposed], let’s hope that the wonderful educational work done by numerous non-for-profit organizations across the country will be able to change their mindsets and make them understand that LGBTQ are not a threat to anyone,” Houzeau said.
This kind of support for LGBT Americans could encourage more professional athletes in different leagues to come out. Currently, Major League Soccer is the only major American men’s professional team sports league with an openly gay athlete on a team roster—Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers. Major women’s sports leagues appear to be a bit more accepting, with multiple openly gay athletes on teams in both the Women’s National Basketball Association and National Women’s Soccer League.
Additionally, only 2-5 percent of college athletes are out, despite the inclusive and diverse atmosphere many colleges and universities offer.