A year of breakthroughs for the LGBT community just got even greater.
“I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.” These words, written by current NBA center Jason Collins, are part of a first-person coming-out piece featured in this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated Magazine. The article gives a firsthand account of Collins’ struggles with his sexual identity, as well as his reasoning for courageously becoming the first, openly gay male active athlete in a major American sport.
American sports are dominated by the alpha-male - the jock. That being said, Collins’ decision to come out is nothing short of praiseworthy. Collins has struggled his entire life to mask his true self with a typical alpha-male facade. From locker room to locker room, he was forced to protect his secret to avoid discomfort within the game, and ridicule outside of the game. But now that the LGBT community is stronger and more successful than it’s ever been, now that gay marriage is already legal in several states in America, and now that gays are widely accepted in pop culture, business, and just about every other aspect of American life, Collins, a true trailblazer, knew it was the right time to reveal his safeguarded secret.
As expected, Collins’ announcement has been met with both acceptance and praise, as well as fear and skepticism. Various celebrities, be it athletes or media stars, have publicly endorsed Collins’ decision to, as he put it, “start the conversation” regarding out professional athletes. Others met Collins’ announcement with a sense of apprehension, a sense of skepticism. Some who are fearful do not think that having an out teammate in a locker room will bode well for team chemistry. Those who don’t agree do so purely on the grounds of homosexuality being an abomination according to the Bible. Now that the trail has been blazed, now that the “conversation” has been started, we can’t help but wonder if more will follow suit, and if those who do will still have a place in professional sports once they are out.
The fact that there are other active athletes in professional sports that are closeted homosexuals is undeniable. Up until now, it was understandable for those athletes to live a life of secrecy. The door wasn’t open for them to come out, so they had all of the reasons to be afraid. However, now that Collins has come out, now that just one athlete has put himself on full display for who he truly is, I believe that many will follow suit. If this were to occur, those who currently feel uncomfortable with the thought of having a homosexual teammate will have to adapt their beliefs and become comfortable with it for the sake of maintaining basic team chemistry. As for the question of if out athletes will have a place in professional sports, it’s my belief that Collins’ coming out will inspire others to do the same, thus resulting in the security of homosexual athletes’ position in professional sports.
Consider this: If various football superstars came out as homosexual, would they lose their job? Absolutely not. If one of the top players in the NBA came out as homosexual, would people have a problem with his sexual orientation to the point that they’d lose their reverence for his abilities? Surely not. The point is, as more and more will continue to come out, homosexuality in professional sports will become increasingly more accepted. Jason Collins has opened the floodgates; now we’re all just waiting to see who washes through.
Whatever may come of this historic coming out cannot underscore how immeasurably important Collins’ decision was. Jason Collins has opened the door for a movement within professional sports. Collins opened himself up to the possibility of criticism and rejection, but stands tall (7 feet, to be exact) doing so, because he knows that the impact he is leaving on professional sports is one that will change homosexuality in American sports forever.
Jason Collins is a true pioneer. He is an American hero and a role model for millions to look up to. In one courageous decision, Collins has gone from an underappreciated NBA journeyman, to a trailblazer in every sense of the word.