May 1, 2013
The first male athlete in the four major sports has come out of the closet. Before Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards announced that he is gay in an article with Sports Illustrated, no other man in the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB history had ever openly stated that they were homosexual while playing in their sport. And, Collins either picked the perfect time to come out of the closet or the worst time to relay his secret to the world. He is a free agent this season and looking for a new team after a 12 year career in the National Basketball Association as a journeyman. His career averages of 3.6 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game belies that whatever team picks him up will at least partially be choosing him for the requisite media circus that will follow him. And conversely, if Collins is unemployed next year, part of the reason that he will be without a job is because teams are avoiding controversy.
Because of the finality of his situation, sports commentators are calling Jason Collins courageous for coming out of the closet after 12 years in the league, and they are lambasting the players that have shown any reticence in supporting him.Various popular commentators stated that they would be perfectly comfortable with a gay man in the locker room with them, and some of these guys have gone on to compare Collins to Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier as a Black man in Major League Baseball. These men are either lying or deluded. Some of the sports guys may really be completely comfortable knowing that they are playing with, changing clothes near, and showering next to a gay man, however some of these men are simply saying the “right thing” in front of the camera. There is difference between assuming that there is at least one unidentified homosexual man in a locker room with you because 4-12% of the population is gay (or bisexual), and knowing that you are showering with a specific person who is gay. Every single person in the media is not enlightened or tolerant enough to be indifferent about varying sexual orientations in the locker room, and neither is every American. The reason that men and women have separate locker rooms hinges on gender and sexual orientation. Should gay men and women get separate changing rooms too? And, would that segregation by sexual preferences be justified? The media ignores questions like these when they rush to the politically correct stance.
Is it admirable that Collins had the conviction, self-awareness, and self-esteem to publicly say that he was a gay man? Absolutely. Are his actions comparable to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in America’s pastime? Not at all. Sexual orientation can be kept undisclosed as Jason Collins has proven ( His twin brother Jarron Collins did not know he was gay until last summer when Jason told him). Race is always evident upon meeting. No one questioned if Jackie Robinson was Black. He was just Black. And, regardless of the slurs and ostracizing that Collins might endure, his life is probably not in danger because of his decision. Robinson faced threats against his life and his families’ lives along with the demeaning names and public mistreatment. Comparing the two is ridiculous.
Jason Collins’ decision to share his sexual orientation with the world may not have its intended effect. It could cost him his next job opportunity. It could cost him friends and peace of mind. But, the price that he pays to be true to himself raises some important inquiries for the American public. He is not Jackie Robinson, but he is the first of his kind. And, sports will forever be changed by his willingness to tell the world that he is gay and finally unashamed.