Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies

Department

Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

J. E. Knott

Abstract

The purpose of this exploratory study was to learn more about Division I-A and Division I-AA collegiate football team culture and how it relates to gay student athletes. The study attempted to gauge player reactions to the presence of a gay teammate. It used qualitative methods and convenience sampling with phone interviews and a three part inquiry.

Twenty-eight scholar athletes participated, including eleven Division I-AA players and 17 from Division I-A. All were current players and attended geographically diverse institutions from four regions of the country. Telephone interview responses were transcribed by the interviewer, and responses were color coded by which question was being answered. Patterns were then identified and noted. These responses were compared to other studies involving perceptions of gay college students, sport and gender sociology theories, accounts of male athletes coming out to teammates and student identity development theories.

The findings fit into at least one of four categories: denial of homosexual teammates, shunning a homosexual player, perpetuating stereotypes, and conditions for acceptance. Many respondents did not believe that a member of their team could be homosexual. Most subjects described ways in which they would alienate a player using verbal and physical abuse and isolation, as well as making the gay player a constant target of mocking and practical jokes. Most players stated an affirmed a belief in various stereotypes regarding gay men, as well as about football players, and saw the two contradicting each other. Subjects usually stated that the best way for a gay teammate to be "accepted" was by not coming out at all. Implications for gay student athletes regarding identity development were addressed and interventive recommendations were provided.

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