On April 30, Matt Ventresca was featured as a guest commentator on CKWS TV’s First@5:30 speaking about NBA player Jason Collins, the first male athlete in a major North American professional sport to come out as gay. Over the course of the three and a half minute segment, Matt commented on the implications of Collins’ announcement for the broader culture of professional sport and for the athlete himself. But Ventresca also emphasized that while we should celebrate the mostly positive reaction to Collins’ declaration, the masculine culture of pro sports still poses many challenges for gay athletes: “[Collins’ announcement] forces us to ask ourselves, as a culture and as sports fans, why it has taken so long for a male athlete to do this…It forces us to ask what about the masculine culture of sports makes it very difficult to be gay and still fulfill your obligations as a ‘manly’ athlete.”
Earlier that month, Matt participated in a roundtable feature on popular blog Hockey in Society about the much publicized partnership between the NHL, NHLPA and You Can Play, an organization that supports the inclusion of gay athletes in sport. Matt applauded the partnership, but cautions that this relationship alone does not address some of the fundamental cultural values that contribute to homophobia in hockey: “The implicit relationship between the NHL’s over-the-top glorification of violence, the masculine cultures of team locker rooms and the current invisibility of the league’s gay players is not inconsequential and should not be ignored. Without interrogating the broader culture of the NHL, You Can Play appears to be sending the message that gay men can be included as long as they still successfully fulfill the sport’s other masculine requirements – you can be different, but not too different.” Matt is a regular contributor to Hockey in Society, a blog founded by U of T graduate student Mark Norman; in fact, a blog post that Matt wrote about Movember’s association with the NHL was the catalyst for his dissertation research and has been featured on the syllabus for two university courses.