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Professional basketball player Jason Collins comes out

by Frederick Sparks

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Jason-CollinsIn case you hadn’t heard, NBA journeyman center Jason Collins has declared to the world that he is a gay man.   Collins entered the NBA twelve years ago, along with his twin Jarron, after the two played collegiate basketball at Stanford.  He is being hailed as the first out active male athlete in a major professional team sport in the U.S. (though some may argue that late baseball player Glenn Burke was the first).

Collins says he was inspired to come out after his former college roommate, current Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, marched in a Boston gay pride parade:

I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

The reaction across the twitter verse and blogsphere, with some exceptions, has been positive, with Kobe Bryant and other current and former players and coaches offering support.  ESPN analyst Chris Broussard, apparently troubled by Collins’ reference to his Christian upbringing and respect for Jesus Christ and how that fits into a viewpoint of tolerance and acceptance,  stated (on a sports show) that Jason couldn’t be a Christian and an “active” homosexual at the same time.  Also, some seem to believe that the fact that Jason’s twin Jarron is not gay means that homosexuality is a choice.

Collins is a free agent (meaning not under contract with any team), having done stints this season with both the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.  Now the question moves to whether his coming out will affect the decision making of team owners who would otherwise be interested in adding Collins to their rosters.   Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who works for an openly gay team President, felt the need to point out that he is a Christian man with a sense of right and wrong before saying that Collins would be welcome on his team “if he had game. If he could help this team”.

Beyond the reaction of people in the sports world, what intrigues (and annoys) me is the reaction of commentators who wonder why this is a big deal and throw out inane chestnuts about how straight people don’t announce that they are straight.  This is the blind spot of social privilege..not recognize that straight people quite often announce their sexuality in many ways (wearing wedding rings, referring to wives and husbands) that go unnoticed because it is the expected norm.  It also smacks of the sentiment that the problem is not with bias, but with discussing bias, and with discussing issues of identity that are related to bias.

Comments

  1. leni says

    Beyond the reaction of people in the sports world, what intrigues (and annoys) me is the reaction of commentators who wonder why this is a big deal and throw out inane chestnuts about how straight people don’t announce that they are straight.

    It mostly just annoys me. Professional sports has got to be one of the toughest industries, in our culture anyway, to come out in.

    I know it may be easier to come out now than it used to be, but I still do not understand how you can see a man do this and not think “brave”. Or at least commendable. I’ve nursed an abiding hatred of some professional sports and this is one of the few times my life that I actually read something in sports news that didn’t make me cringe, but made me smile. Long overdue, but it really is so nice to see.

  2. Francois says

    Thank God you had the guts to come out. You all would be surprise as to how many of the so call Hetrosexual Person, as lots of them are in the CLOSET and are afraid as to what would happen if everone of those would be TRUTHFULL and come out. I was in a relationship for 31 Years, most persons that we knew never disapproved and relish the idea that we were very open in our Homosexuality.
    Jason it took a lot of guts and you finally said it Congratulation are in order.

  3. Riptide says

    As a heterosexual guy who really doesn’t watch any sports (not even hockey, bad Canadian that I am), I want to say that I’m glad the culture is being moved to accept its gay athletes. I was overjoyed when I learnt of the first openly-gay boxer some time last year, and I’m overjoyed at Jason’s courage in finally being fully himself in his professional life. There will be pushback, possibly severe, but with every person who comes forward, it will get just a little bit easier to be different.

    Maybe, some day, that shift in attitudes will trickle down to highschool teams, and young men and women won’t have to be ashamed of being different *and* playing sports (or not). If gay people can play football and basketball, and straight people can do art and dancing and theatre, we’ll have a world with less stigma and much more happiness.

    I also hasten to point out that we don’t *know* if Jarron is gay or not, just like we didn’t know if Jason was gay until he made his announcement. It’s a facet of straight privilege that everyone assumes he is, as though that were the default.

    Thank you, Jason, for accepting who you are. I hope that young, black, gay men and women can take your example. Thank you as well for challenging Christian privilege, and showing young Christians of all colours that they don’t need to hate others (or even themselves) for being different. I strongly disagree with you about the necessity of Jesus to have a meaningful life, but I respect that you’re working for a more tolerant and loving world.

    • fredericksparks says

      “. I strongly disagree with you about the necessity of Jesus to have a meaningful life, but I respect that you’re working for a more tolerant and loving world.”

      In a nutshell this encapsulates my philosophy in dealing with “progressive” believers

      • Riptide says

        I only treat “liberal” religious people that way when they’ve made some statement or done something to deserve it–as Jason Collins has clearly done here. Most “liberal” religious folk just provide cover for the claims made by the “true believers”, though, and aren’t worth my time.

  4. says

    I’ll celebrate day when this sort of announcement doesn’t even make the papers.

    Because someone else’s sexual preferences are really none of my business. And certainly not “news”, no matter what their profession.

    • fredericksparks says

      The point is we don’t just magically get to that day. So I’ll celebrate this today because it is a necessary step in the normalization process that allows it NOT to be a big deal

      And yes I agree that a person’s sex life is their personal business, but I also don’t think sexuality should be some shameful secret

  5. mary says

    The tweet by Toronto Raptors star Rudy Gay (a former teamate of Collins in Memphis was appropriate–
    “Happy for my former teamate Jason Collins. A true American-
    home of the free because of the brave.”

    Currently, it is a brave thing to do. Hopefully, it will soon become a non issue. However, that will be some time in coming.

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