When I heard about Jason Collins coming out of the closet, my initial reaction wasn’t a sense of advancement in our country: It wasn’t the well-deserved praise for such a brave athlete. My first thought was, “Who the hell is Jason Collins?”
After a quick search on Google, I remembered, ‘Oh yeah, that guy. He’s still in the league?’
My point isn’t that Jason Collins is irrelevant as a player—he does have a shoe deal with Nike—my point is that I think one day, hopefully soon, an openly gay player in sports won’t be such big news.
For those who haven’t heard, news came out Monday that Collins, an NBA player, became the first active male player in major American team sports to come out. Though the 34-year-old veteran has never made an all-star team and will not be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame anytime soon, he will always be remembered as a pioneer in sports.
Some people have said they don’t see the big deal about him coming out, but it is. Ideally it wouldn’t be, but he is the very first active player to come out, and that’s huge for sports.
I caught wind of the news when NBA star Baron Davis who tweeted, “I am so proud of my bro @jasoncollins34 for being real. #FTheHaters.”
Kobe Bryant (a current NBA player, for those who don’t know, or for those who only watch good teams) tweeted, “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU.” While I will never, never join the Mamba Army, I do respect him for tweeting this. Having one of the most polarizing athletes in the world standing up for Collins is nice to see.
By far, the best response to Collins’ story in Sports Illustrated, where he spoke first-hand about the experience, was from none other than Metta World Peace, the Artest formerly known as Ron. Please look it up. It involves him saying people need to do what makes them happy, and how he should have worn his Cookie Monster hat and pants to match his shirt.
But even with plenty of positive feedback from the Twittersphere, there were several negative tweets and television rants to stir up some controversy. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, one of the best wideouts in the game, tweeted, “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH…” He later deleted it and tweeted an apology, most likely straight from the heart—of Wallace’s publicist’s wallet.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard went on a mini-rant about the Bible and how he basically doesn’t understand it. Don’t worry, Chris, not much has changed in the last 3,500 years. You’re good.
It’s players like Wallace who keep more athletes from coming out. The Dolphins could have seven gay players on their team, all of whom don’t want to come out now because of their teammate.
Hopefully more athletes will follow in Collins’ footsteps and be as a brave as he is.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins said. “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.”
One day there will be lots of openly homosexual athletes in sports and Broussard and Wallace, among many others, will feel the same way those who opposed civil rights do right now: In the wrong.