Jason Collins came out to the world on Monday April 29th in a piece he wrote for Sports Illustrated (read it here as it is very good, whether you agree with his decision or not.) When the news first hit all of my social media channels I did absolutely nothing. I did not run, ok click, over to CNNSI.com even though I visit the site 3 to 4 times per day. I didn’t offer my opinion on the news to anybody but instead kept working and thinking. I thought about Jason Collins and who he was, what his place in the NBA and in a grander scheme the world is/was. What did this revelation mean to the real world, and by real world I mean outside of sports.
Jason Collins is a Stanford graduate (so he is pretty smart) and a 12 year veteran of the NBA. He plays center so he is a rather large man (over 7 foot tall) but is a back up at best when you look at his statistics. Last year he played in only 39 games and played only 10 minutes per game with a scoring average of 1 point and 1 rebound. Yes, Jason Collins plays in the NBA but that is using the term loosely but he is still a professional athlete and so this made the news and continues to dominate the sports news.
From what I have seen the reaction has been very positive and there has been a lot of support. The only negative comment I read came from Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver Mike Wallace. His tweets have since been deleted and an apology issued, which I presume defines the sensitivity that people will have regarding this news about Jason Collins being a homosexual.
After a few hours I finally decided to read the piece and it was very well written, as would be expected from a Stanford grad and again just thought about what it meant. After two days of processing this news I came to a revelation of my own: Who Cares! Think about this for a few seconds before you decide to comment about my opinion. Did Jason Collins saying publicly that he is gay affect your life? Is so, how? Are you no longer a believer in the rights of a person to do with their life as they so choose? Are you now wishing that more people would come out and say that they are gay? If it affected you in more than a news story I would like to know because that is all it is to me……a news story that has no effect on my life.
I grew up in New York City and have homosexual friends and family so maybe that is why this news has not affected me personally. It has allowed me to think more about the world of sports and homosexuality. If this had been a more prominent star in the NBA or even the NFL then I think there would have been an even bigger reaction, but before we start discussing that let us think about the following:
- Gay marriage is a topic that has been at the forefront of the political discussion for years.
- To my knowledge there is no segregation for homosexuals the way there was for blacks and whites.
My point about these two bullets is that this is not Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. This is just not the news that the 24 hour news cycle is making it out to be. This is a non-story in my world. I congratulate Jason Collins for opening up and allowing himself to be himself but I also think that this is much to do about nothing.
The world of sports seems to be waiting for the shoe to drop on a big name player saying that they are gay, but my question is: What happens then? Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Derek Jeter of Major League Baseball, LeBron James of the National Basketball Association, Tom Brady of the National Football League, and Sidney Crosby of the National Hockey League all put out a story on the same day that they are gay. What happens then? Does the world stop on its axis? Do the leagues stop playing games? Do their teammates rip up their multi-million dollar contracts and say they aren’t playing with them anymore?
The news that Jason Collins is gay is not earth shattering the way that Earvin “Magic’ Johnson’s news that he has HIV was earth shattering. That news came out at a time when HIV was not fully understood and the topic of being gay just seemed to be being approached. Today we have lived with the topic of homosexuality being in the news more often than ever before and so when Jason Collins revealed he was gay I chose to keep on working and not rush to read the article, nor rush to judgement.
Lastly, before we also stand up and high-five Jason Collins for coming out (which I think is commendable) I think we should take note of athletes like Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Chris Kluwe who have reported that they are gay or support gay rights before Jason Collins let his news be known.
I will say that I look forward to the day when announcements like Jason Collins announcement get zero news coverage. It is not important to know somebody’s sexuality, or at least it shouldn’t be but until then I will congratulate any professional athlete that doesn’t feel the need to be something other than themselves. It takes courage to come out and tell the ‘manly’ world of sports that you are gay but it really shouldn’t be.