HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
APRIL 23, 2004 19
^ITtS GREG SMILEY
W W\ After years of being out to her family,
W friends and colleagues, professional golfer
^___\_Wr ^^ Rosie Jones comes out to the world.
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Professional golfer Rosie Jones came out in March after entering a sponsorship agreement with Olivia, a
company that provides travel services for gays. (Photo by Steve Mitchell/AP)
Rosie comes out swinging
LAST MONTH, DURING THE KRAFT
Nabisco Championship. March 22-28.
Rosie Jones teed ofT sporting the logo of
a new sponsor, Olivia, a travel company
catering to lesbians.
With her announcement in a news piece
she wrote, and the New York Times published on March 21 about the sponsorship,
the 44-year-old Jones, a 13-time winner on
the Ladies Professional Golf Association
(LPGA) tour, publicly came out of the closet.
Jones has been out to her family and
friends for 25 years, even before she began
playing on the pro tour in 1982. Most, if
not all, of her colleagues on the tour knew
of her sexual orientation. But it was not
something she discussed publicly
"I've been on tour for 25 years, and in
fact, there's a wide group of lesbians on
tour, but they don't wear it," she says. "In
fact, on tour you don't always know it.
"You see people at parties and question
things, but it's not a close-knit group of
people," she adds. "People just don't go
around and go, 'Is she? Is she? Is she?'"
CYNICS MIGHT SAY JONES'
admission is hardly courageous, given
that she is in the latter years of her
career, is financially stable and, in fact,
has timed this admission to an endorsement deal that will pay her significant
amounts of cash.
But it was a brave move, and she
brushes such comments aside.
"Hey, opportunity fell In my lap. I wasn't ready five or 10 years ago to make it
public. I don't think my tour was ready,"
Jones says. "When Martina came out, she
lost almost every one of her sponsors.
That was the way corporate America was
thinking. It was scary. It is scary
"Ten years ago. they didn't have' &
< Jrace,' Rosie O'Donnell, gays on mainstream TV," she adds. "[Today] it's becoming acceptable."
Jones says she doesn't really know
what attitude mainstream sponsors hold
toward openly gay athletes today But she
has not been a victim of backlash as a
result of coming out.
"I still have my contract with Titleist,"
she says. "I have a new contract with Ecco
shoes, with a clothing company.
Everybody was fine with it... I wasn't surprised, but I was relieved. Things are just
Jones told the Voice she views herself
as an athlete more so than a political
activist. Whether she acknowledges it or
not, however, what she did could be considered political, based on the current climate for gays in the professional sports
arena and in general.
"My coming out was not to take a
political stance," she says. "I'm looked at
as someone who is stepping forward in
those directions. 1 definitely have my
viewpoints or opinions."
Regardless of the timing, Jones has
done a great service for professional sports
and for gay men and lesbians. kna\ she's
done it on her own terms, when she was
prepared to face the consequences.
That is how it should be.
"Coming out is a personal thing for
everyone — at whatever level you do it,"
she says. "1 had come out personally years
ago, but to open yourself publicly to the
world? Most people, they don't walk into a
grocery store and get recognized. There's
a whole [other] level for professional athletes. They have to be pretty comfortable
Then she adds, "And so what. I'm like a
thousand other athletes looking for
endorsements. I was probably passed over
a couple of times. So why not [enter a
sponsorship agreement with Olivia)."
It's a brave move that a lot of other
golfers and professional sports figures
have not yet been able to make.
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