LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2013 — Jason Collins has become the first active male athlete in a major sport to come out and admit that he is gay. In the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, the 12 year NBA veteran writes, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
It must have taken incredible courage for Collins to come out at this point in his career. Jason Collins is going to be a free agent this summer. Some people may see this as a test of whether discrimination will cause him to lose sponsors or his job. Will teams stay away from him because he is openly gay?
That is a tough question. It would be a more accurate test if Collins came out as a free agent while in his late 20s in the prime of his career. The seven foot center has seen his minutes and number of games played cut in half during the last five years. He started just nine games this year for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.
His best season was the in the ’04 - ’05 season when he averaged 6.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in 31 minutes per game with the New Jersey Nets. Last year, Collins averaged only 1.1 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes per game. Those numbers are negligible and could be replaced for less money and with a younger player.
Regardless of whether or not Jason Collins gets another contract in the NBA, what he did took a lot of courage and opened the door for future gay athletes. Collins wrote, “I am happy to start the conversation.” That conversation is definitely started.
As far as sponsors go, his only sponsor, Nike, released a statement saying, “We admire Jason’s courage and are proud that he is a Nike athlete. Nike believes in a level playing field where an athlete’s sexual orientation is not a consideration.”
For Jason Collins, he has gone from an almost forgotten mediocre basketball player to the face of what may become a gay movement, of sorts, in professional sports. Time will tell if players and owners are able to accept an openly gay teammate.
Time will also tell if the American fans can let go of their homophobic ways and accept and openly gay athlete. It is similar to when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. The difference is that Jackie Robinson did it at a time when a team had no choice other than to sign him because he was so good.
Jason Collins does not compare to Robinson as far as talent goes. Sadly, the time when American society finally embraces an openly gay male athlete may not come until someone of Jackie Robinson’s talent comes out as gay in their prime.
If a Lebron James or a Kevin Durant were to come out as gay in their prime, that would be the day that Americans are forced to face their fears of gay people. There will be a day when openly gay players are known simply as players, but it will take time.
America is still debating the issue of whether or not gay people can legally get married. Jason Collins had to take the first step alone in hopes that others will find courage and strength to follow. With all the positive reactions so far, one has to think more players will start coming forward.
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