Sports Commentary 4/30/13
NBA Player Jason Collins comes out…
ACCEPTING JASON COLLINS
The interesting thing about the disclosure from Jason Collins in an on line article for Sports Illustrated.com is that it really wasn’t that big a deal. That’s not to say it didn’t take a lot of soul searching and courage on Collins’ part to become the first male athlete in one of the four major American sports to come out as being gay. And let me put on the record right now that I’ve never been comfortable with that term, “come out”, particularly not comfortable with the phrase, “coming out of the closet”. Collins, nor none of the people before him who openly embraced their sexuality, did anything wrong. They hadn’t broken any rules or taken performance enhancing drugs or violated any laws. Living with a secret may put them in a figurative closet, but, also firguratively, in terms of the strides we’ve made as a society, the door to that closet should have swung open a long time ago. “When I was a child I thought as a child”. We all did. As adolecents we heard the snickers and the jokes and, in a manner of speaking, became as much victims of society as those who were joked about. Our minds were kept closed far too long. By now we are mature enough to embrace the uniqueness of every individual and know, that by accepting their differences, and our own, we are not making religious or political statements. Collins isn’t the first person in the sports world to disclose his or her homosexuality. Legends of women’s tennis have openly acknowleged their sexuality. Just last week women’s basketball star Brittney Griner did likewise. A Major League Baseball umpire “came out” and it may or may not have had an effect on his career. His credentials as an umpire were questionable. Through all of these disclosures society has shown itself to be understanding and accepting, but it doesn’t discount the courage it took for Collins to go public. Many in the gay community probably already understood the significance of the unusual number he chose to wear at a couple of his stops in the NBA, 98. As Collins explained, the number resonates in the gay community as a reference to 1998, the year that University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was murdered in one of the most heinous hate crimes in history. The White House and the league office checked in on the Collins announcement, calling it a “breakthrough”. The true breakthrough will come when the White House and activist spokespeople see no need to involve themselves in the discussion, because acceptance has become commonplace. The reaction to Collins’ announcement indicates we as a society have long since moved past judgment because of sexual orientation. The true measure of Jason Collins courage may lie ahead, during the coming off season. At 34 years of age, with minimal statistical credentials as a career reserve with a half dozen different teams, his prospects for future employment in the NBA are questionable, regardless of sexual orientation. If he isn’t picked up by another team, to charge bias based on yesterday’s announcement would do irreparable harm to a social cause that has advanced immeasurable miles in a relatively short period of time. Jason Collins has given millions of people an example of acceptance not unlike the example Jackie Robinson gave an entire race. Any step backward now would be an injustice to all of those millions. The true test of Jason Collins courage may still lie ahead. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.