McGarity: Georgia would welcome openly gay athlete

semerson@macon.comFebruary 11, 2014 

ATHENS, Ga.- The University of Georgia student-athlete handbook is 39 pages long, but has no specific mention of sexual orientation. But the final page, a list of "UGA Diversity Resources," includes links to a number of organizations, including a couple for the gay community. That includes the LAMBDA Alliance, an organization for gay and lesbian students at UGA.

It's subtle, but important, because that seems to sum up where UGA athletics is on the issue.

"I think, and I've heard others say this, that you would hope in time that this would not even be an issue," athletics director Greg McGarity said Tuesday.

Last August, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam told his football teammates he was gay, and by all accounts he was welcomed and accepted. Sam went on to be named the SEC defensive player of the year, and on Sunday he made national news by coming out publicly.

McGarity was asked if he felt a gay athlete at UGA would feel welcome to come out publicly.

"I think our environment with our coaches and our student-athletes has always been one of acceptance of really everything," McGarity said. "Our environment is to be inclusive. Our environment is to be color blind. Our environment is (to say) that you're a student at the University of Georgia, and that's what matters most."

McGarity also pointed to a statement released Sunday by SEC commissioner Mike Slive:

“It takes an incredible amount of courage to break ground on a social issue on a national stage. Michael Sam is a young man of tremendous fortitude and confidence. It is these traits that make it possible for him to be among the best on the field and now to have an impact on the world of sport in a very important way. I also applaud the wonderful support given to him by his teammates and the University of Missouri.”

McGarity's response: "We applaud the comments by the commissioner. We all, I think, feel the same way that the commissioner does, and our presidents, that this hopefully should not be an issue at all."

Sam's announcement was a landmark in the sports world because of the lack of openly gay athletes in major team sports. He would become the first such player on an NFL roster.

But diversity, including of sexual orientation, has been stressed on college campuses for years, and even on the high school level, McGarity pointed out.

"On college campuses, I think students come to the campus already accepting all walks of life," McGarity said. "So I think the schools do a wonderful job, the high schools, especially those that produce our students, I think they do a good job of creating an environment during their high school days that is just inclusive of really everything. So I think that on this campus, I think there's always concern there, but I think in general the overwhelming percentage of our students are very welcoming, and don't really see this as a big issue."

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