Until yesterday none of America’s “Big 4” sports leagues; the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL, had an active player come out and publicly admit to being gay. But that all changed when NBA free agent center Jason Collins came out in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. It should be noted that Collins isn’t the first active professional athlete to come out. In fact, a number of WNBA players, including new pro Brittney Griner, have revealed their sexual orientations already. Additionally, tennis, soccer, lacrosse and boxing all have openly gay or lesbian athletes in their respective pro leagues/associations. Fair or not, none of those sports garner the attention that the “Big 4” get, so fair or not Collins has earned a great deal more attention. His status as an active player in the NBA, one of America’s most popular and traditionally masculine sports, makes this revelation a big deal.
If you know anything about me and/or this blog then you know that I’m pleased by this development. I for one am sick of living in a world that denies anyone the right to be who they are and/or want to be (no one said this better than Meta World Peace did yesterday. Trust me). And I’m sick of the hyper-masculine, hetero-sexist bullshit that has become so ingrained into American sports culture. I wish Mr. Collins nothing but the best. It’s probably cliche to say it at this point, but what he did takes courage (frankly, I don’t think it’s something that can be overstated). In fact, there have already been a few professional athletes and reporters who have stated their issues with Collins, not to mention all the regular haters on the internet.
One also wonders; could this be the end of Collins’ professional career? Let’s hope not. As I noted before, he is a free agent so it’ll be interesting to see if teams refuse to sign him now that he’s out. We’ll just have let that play out on it’s own course. In the mean time, Here’s a few highlights from Collins’ letter;
About his decision to come out:
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
Collins played for 12 seasons on 6 different NBA teams which means he’s played with or against a sizable portion of the NBA. That longevity gives Collins the ability to make this awesome statement:
“Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”
And finally, this explanation of why he wore the number 98 as a Celtic and a Wizard:
“The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I’ve struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.”
You can read Collins’ full letter on SI.com.