Former Major League Baseball player (and probable future Hall-Of-Famer) Mike Piazza's new memoir discusses noteworthy events in his life, including the decade-old rumor that he is gay. The book discusses how Piazza felt offended – not that people thought he was gay, but that people thought he would go so far as to create an elaborate and phony life in order to hide his sexual orientation. In the new memoir Piazza states that if, "I was gay, I'd be gay all the way".
The allegations stem from all the way back in 2002. At that time a rumor was circulated that there was a gay player on the New York Mets, the team for which Piazza played. It was obvious to many that the rumors were about Piazza himself, and he actually went so far as to host an impromptu press conference to publically affirm his heterosexuality, in which he stated, "I can only say what I know and what the truth is and that’s I’m heterosexual and I date women. That’s it. End of story". After the press conference there was a fair amount of backlash against Piazza for how he chose to handle the situation. Some sports writers even at the time commented on how Piazza should have used the situation to instead comment on how being gay should be a non-issue as a professional baseball player. This instance was one of the first times that sports media and fans alike talked about how the world of sports would react to an openly gay athlete, and even though the press conference held by Piazza was probably unnecessary, it did help to create a discussion about having LGBT-identifying people within professional sports.
Piazza doesn’t shy away from controversy in the book, also discussing his feud with pitcher Roger Clemens and his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. But with the positive environment that is currently being created by professional athletes for the LGBT community, maybe he felt it was necessary to add in his book that his hastily convened 'I'm not gay' press conference was not because he didn't want to be known as gay, but because he didn't want people thinking that he was leading an elaborate, phony lifestyle. If so, this reflects a shift in mood that comes in response to over a decade worth of examples that prove athletes would be accepting of an openly gay teammate. Like when, after his divorce in 2006, NFL player Michael Strahan was similarly confronted with rumors of him being gay. Unlike Piazza, Strahan did not hold a press conference to affirm his sexuality but rather commented on how he had friends that were gay and that he was okay with that. The sports world has come a long way in the decade-plus since the Piazza rumor began spreading, and the way he handled it in his memoir shows the progress that has been made in creating an LGBT inclusive environment among current and former professional athletes.