Monday, April 29 marked the first time a currently active professional basketball player openly revealed to being a homosexual. Jason Collins, 12-year veteran NBA player, came out to the world in a self-written article for Sports Illustrated that was released Monday.
Players have admitted to being gay in the past, many recently. Center for the Baylor University Brittney Griner and Middle Tennessee’s placekicker Alan Gendreau were both openly gay and have admitted so. Professional athletes such as boxer Orlando Cruz and Billie Jean king are noted for being homosexual.
Significant to this case, is that this is first active player to admit to being gay in a major sport. Never has a NFL, MLB or NHL player admitted to being gay while currently playing for a team. Now an NBA player for the Washington Wizards has openly admitted to being gay.
The response has been tremendous. Every show on SportsCenter has addressed it and sports websites across the Web have too. Even President Obama gave Collins a call to commend him on his courage.
Another President called him too, Golden Warrior’s Rick Welts who came out two years ago to the New York Times.
Welts said, “This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits. Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”
It is a remarkable feat for Collins, and he said the day after, “It’s very humbling to get calls from two Presidents.”
Collins has lifted a huge weight off his shoulders. Emotionally, he said it is relieving. Not even his own brother knew of his homosexuality. His twin brother Jarron Collins had no idea of his brother sexual orientation, but welcomed him with open arms.
“I’m very proud of him and happy. To hold that secret for so long and I asked him how long he felt this way. He said the whole time, so I glad he got the weight off his chest,” said Jarron
Jason Collins was never a start for any team. He was Houston’s 18th pick back in 2001, started his career with the New Jersey Net’s and helped Jason Kidd make it to a conference championship. After seven seasons with the Nets, he played for five different teams, including three with the Hawks and recently a stint with the Boston Celtics.
The starting center doesn’t have particularly flashy numbers. The best season of his career was starting for the Nets in 2004-05. Collins average 6.1 rebounds a game and 6.4 points. His career average for rebounds is 3.6 and 3.8 in points.
Considering the timing of his admission, some reporters including Tony Cornheiser believe this may help him get a roster spot soon. Cornheiser, Pardon the Interruption host, did not suggest Collins did this for that reason. He simply believes this is a sensitive subject and that he will be signed because he is the first openly gay athlete.
Regardless, interesting to me, is the reception he will receive by the fans around the league. Sportscasters as a majority (besides Chris Broussard who said it was a sin on national television), have praised him entirely for his courage. His friends and family have accepted his sexual orientation. Even his teammates, which some believed would reject him, were welcoming of his admission.
Mike Wilbon and Dan Le Batard from ESPN both feel the NBA is the best environment to come out in compared to the other major sports. As outrageous as that sounds, I don’t see the basis for their remarks.
The true sense of reception will be when he plays a game. This will not occur until next season. That being said, fans can be ruthless. They berate players, chant obscenities and are generally rude sometimes. Fans love picking at athlete’s personal lives in the new sports coverage of today. Coverage that pictures who they’re dating and what kind of trouble they’re getting into. I heard once people simply chanting, “Blatche is a rapist,” after he was convicted of assault. Uncalled for remarks are always around. Though people have been admirably accepting now, we can only hope fans won’t ruin this unprecedented moment with foolish remarks.
This is a huge step not only for professional sports, but especially Jason Collins. With this off his chest, he can be himself openly without hiding a huge part of his life. Hopefully his actions will encouraged other closeted athletes to be themselves, regardless of the culture surrounding them.
By Frank Lippincott