29 April 2013

What Jason Collins coming out means for sports

For the first time in professional North American team sports, there is an openly gay athlete. Veteran center Jason Collins, who has spent time with the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and most recently with the Wizards, came out in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Frank Lidz that will be appear in the May 6 issue. He has made history by doing so and sports as we know it will not be the same again.

Here are the first two paragraphs from the piece:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
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 is not the first NBA player to announce that he is gay, former center John Amaechi came out after his retirement from the NBA six years ago. But he is the first to do so while currently playing, which is huge for obvious reasons. It is widely considered to be fact that there are gay players across the major American sports, but none have come out, likely for a variety of reasons, chief among them being acceptance from fellow teammates. But now that there is one who had the remarkable courage to come out as Collins has, we will probably see a decent number of players to come out as gay although some have long thought that for a real difference, the player coming out would have to be a big name, which Collins is not.

The greatest thing about Collins's announcement is that, as Jon Werthiem of SI puts it, is that he did not do this to make a political point. He was not hounded or caught by some slimy paparazzi folks. He did it simply for himself so that he could live his life without having to live in fear of who he really was. And now he is a trailblazer in the gay community's long fought battle for acceptance in society.

Now while there will likely be some folks who have problems with Collins's announcement, the reaction has been nothing less than positive, which is a great sign of how far we have come in society. Now hopefully, this is just the first step across all sports.

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