PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Despite rumors to the contrary, former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy has never left the Pittsburgh Area. In fact he lives in a secluded part of Ligonier.
It’s where he goes to think, and he has spent many days, months, and years here, thinking about this decision to come out.
McClatchy appears to have the weight of the world off his shoulders after reveling publicly for the first time, that he is gay.
If you think the burden of owning a professional baseball team was overwhelming, Kevin McClatchy says it was nothing compared to living a lie.
“It scared me to death that the story would get out, and I did live in fear,” McClatchy told KDKA’s Bob Pompeani in his first local television interview.
The fear of keeping his secret that he was gay, was a very tough thing to do for a person who was the face of the Pirate franchise for 11-years.
Bob: “What’s it like to live in secrecy?”
Kevin: “It’s awful and it wears you down, and you’re always worried about something happening, or somebody saying something. It’s frightening really. You go to a dark place, and I had been there a few times. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”
McClatchy says he was very much aware of the rumors that were circulating in Pittsburgh about him being gay, but that he continued to hide it because of where society was, and most importantly, where the Pirates were.
“It’s where we were with the Pittsburgh Pirates. We were in a tenuous position. I mean from the day we got there in ’96 we spent four years trying to get funding to get PNC Park built. I didn’t think it was a good time to come out and try to make a statement. And the whole time getting PNC Park and opening it up, I just thought it could have derailed everything we were trying to do. I could not take that chance.”
McClatchy says it was too important for him to keep the Pirates in Pittsburgh, which he did. He was also the driving force in getting PNC Park financed. His biggest frustration was not overseeing one winning season.
But now five years removed from his role as owner, he feels the need to stand up, and be heard on the social issue.
“I think society has changed, and I think society has changed more than sports have. I give baseball a lot of credit especially having Jackie Robinson. It’s timely that the movie 42 is out. That Branch Rickey took a chance and said you know, this is the way it should be, and you guys, get used to it.”
But, it’s not that easy when it comes to professional sports locker rooms. For all the recent progress towards same-sex relationships. There remains, in sports, a powerful stigma attached to homosexuality.
“It’s still gonna be a big story, there’s gonna be the first NFL player, the first NHL player, and they’re out there right now.”
Bob: “What percentage would you put on it?”
Kevin: “I couldn’t give you that, but I know they are out there, but it’s gonna be what Jason (Collins) did. What he did has opened the door and I think other guys are gonna talk about it, and probably gonna have good friends say, just do it, and get it out of the way. You know there will be, like in any sport, hate mail, but I used to get that on a regular basis, that’s not a big deal.”
He stepped away from the Pirates in 2007, but it took five years for McClatchy to feel comfortable talking about his private life.
The world of sports isn’t filled with athletes who are proud of being openly gay.
“I was around the culture and granted, I’ve been gone from the game the last five years. So things were a little worse five years ago and worse ten years ago, but the culture could use a little bit of educating on how people deal with the topic or even talk about it. You have to have dialogue and there was no dialogue from the commissioner’s office and down.”
That silence is a reminder that despite all the recent social progress on this issue, there is still a stigma about it in the sports world.
That was in clear view during the Super Bowl, with 49ers Chris Culliver who said, “We ain’t got no gay people on the team. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”
Former Steeler Mike Wallace also recently tweeted, “With all these beautiful women in the world and guys want to mess with other guys… smh.”
Bob: “You hear this a lot from players, Hines Ward said the NFL is not ready for an openly gay player, what would your reaction to that be?”
Kevin: “I think he’s wrong. I think it’s baloney that people have that insecurity, let me take baseball for a second. So a player plays four years of high school, then rides the minor league bus, let’s say for four years for a shot to play in the major leagues. But they probably played little league, so they probably played baseball 16 years to get to their dreams of making it to a major league field. Is anybody dumb enough to believe that the whole reason they want their shot is to get into the shower with a bunch of other guys? They could go to a gym if they wanted that. It’s ludicrous. It’s ludicrous for another reason. We have men and women in the armed forces that are openly gay that are risking their lives every day overseas. They get into the same showers as other guys and they’ve had no problems since don’t ask, don’t tell went through. We have firefighters, police officers, but there’s this arrogance in sports that we can’t do it, well, baloney.”
There is also the belief, as ESPN’s Chris Broussard brought up, that homosexuality is sinning, according to the Catholic faith.
“My religious point of views are, God created us all. I think God wouldn’t create a group of people just cause he hates them. I’m a very religious person and I have a lot of faith and my faith is in a God that loves the people he created.”
McClatchy firmly believes that sports must create a culture of acceptance, for all sports.
“I think it should happen on the commissioner’s office on down. Talking to their coaches, major league coaches, minor league, college coaches, high school coaches, that if there’s a gay kid, treat him like everyone else.”
“Can I do both, be a gay person and play sports, and for most people, at least when I was growing up it was terrifying. And if it helps a kid, the teen suicide rate among gay kids is four times as high as regular kids, and I think they have enough pressure on them.”