For months, the sports world has discussed the potential of the first gay male professional athlete. Advocacy and support for an active gay athlete in American professional sports has grown immensely in the last several years and in 2013 the questions were becoming a matter of when and who and not if.
The time is now and the person is NBA center Jason Collins, who played with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards this past season. Collins penned a first person story in this week's Sports Illustrated as this week's cover story. Here's Collins in his own words:
"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.
My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.
I've played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you're in the league, and I haven't been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates' teammates. Or one of your teammates' teammates' teammates.
Now I'm a free agent, literally and figuratively. I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful."
Collins has been a serviceable big man for over a decade and has played for 6 NBA teams in his career and averaged 10 minutes a game between Boston and Washington this season. Collins is a free agent looking for a team heading into next season, but plans on playing somewhere. Although Collins' first-person narrative is a powerful read and journey into his decision, a remarkable aspect of the story is that Jason Collins didn't come out to his twin brother Jarron until just last year.
"I didn't come out to my brother until last summer. His reaction to my breakfast revelation was radically different from Aunt Teri's. He was downright astounded. He never suspected. So much for twin telepathy. But by dinner that night, he was full of brotherly love. For the first time in our lives, he wanted to step in and protect me."
This is a monumental moment in American sports, even if Collins doesn't latch on to another NBA team. Other prominent male athletes have come out, but Collins has done so before his playing days have officially come to an end. Now that Jason Collins has taken the step, he has opened the door for other current athletes to follow suit, and that could be more valuable than anything he accomplished on the court.
And, at least initially, support for Collins has been overwhelming:
Congratulations to Jason - society couldn't hope for a more eloquent & positive role model: buff.ly/10OvOMd— John Amaechi OBE (@JohnAmaechi) April 29, 2013
David Stern has also issued a statement pledging the NBA's support for Collins:
As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.
Spiritual consequences??? Give me a break.. I figured out that was as phony as Santa Claus, but about 4 to 5 years later, although I really had my doubt around the same time I had finally made up my mind 4 or 5 years later, that it too was BOGUS. If, there were anything to that supreme being malarky, don't you think that of the 100,000,000,000 plus homo sapiens to have ever lived on Earth, that there would have been "ONE" (except for the true crazies, they will tell you anything) who spoke with, or met with, or laid eyes upon the MOST POWERFUL BEING EVER? Because after all, what would a being INFINITELY POWERFUL have to lose to a mere clay-footed mortal??
@cazzbaa Whether God exists or not is a personal question. Whether you agree with that or not, religion is part of the human condition. The question is how you define your personal beliefs and how you live together with those that both believe in the same set of beliefs or don't.
I get so upset when people use god in the wrong place and time The god I know love all Jason will be just good and most of all god will not let him dowm
@lamarr1231 The good news about a story like this is that it also opens up discussions about the role of religion in our lives and the lives of others. I am someone who staunchly believes that religion is a personal choice and that I have no right to tell you what to believe or that your way of believing (or not believing) in God is right or wrong. Again, hopefully comments in this thread and comments like the ones expressed by Chris Broussard and LZ Granderson (two men with very very different beliefs on this issue and what their supposedly same religion says about it) only foster to open up discussion.
Jason, why does this need to be an issue? So also assume the leadership mantle through the grace of God our Lord Jesus Christ and tell the world how this is a disorder you have and that you keep it in check and are celibate, that you understand that this is your temptation in life and you ask the good Lord every day to keep you strong in overcoming your temptations. God help you and bless you!!!!!! Thank you for seeking God's Truth, the world is straying far from it and you can be one of the leaders that sets a high example for others with your temptation to return to our merciful and loving God's eternal plan of salvation. I pray and sacrifice every day for this world's return to God's truthful plan for his people. God will prevail in the end and we can either be with Him or against Him, but not both.
@cindyswilson What in the world does Jason's sexuality have to do with you. Please go back to your cave and worship your imaginary friend in the sky with all your might. It still won't make him real. You go Jason. Hopefully thousands of young people will feel a little better about their true selves. Keep up the good work.
@Tobias2772 @cindyswilson Hey Tobais, instead of sending someone back to a "cave", how about YOU go back to the CLOSET!! How is this moron's sexual preference any reason to be proud of?? I like banging only 25 year-old blonde women...Should people be sending "Im prouuud of yous" to me??? It's ridiculous and just part of the sick liberal media pushing the gay agenda down any and all traditional institutions...and I vote Democrat!! I'm just so tired of how this (pushing the gay agenda), is helping the millions of American's out of work or face TRUE discrimination ( a black millionaire athlete is still A MILLIONAIRE!!). Cindy, I'm not a bible thumper but I respect your views and regret how you are attacked when all you were doing was trying to offer advice.
I teach high school and I regularly see young people ostracized and diminished as human beings for their sexual orientation, so I am glad to have it publicly known that homosexuals can be successful and accepted by most of our thinking society.
I am totally uinterested in your political affiliation. When you rely on an ancient book based on mythology or unexamined tradition for your guidance then I think you are backward thinking and irrational. These are negative qualities that are holding human progress back. I'm not pushing a gay agenda, i'm pushing a rational and thoughtful agenda.
@KennyOlivero @Tobias2772 @cindyswilson Civil rights are an issue that are always important no matter what else is going on in society. As Jason Collins says in his essay for Sports Illustrated, it took him 33 years really to come to terms with who he is and what being gay means. No amount of money is going to make him feel comfortable if he cannot be true to himself. That is what this -- and really the whole political debate is about. I would like to point out another thing Collins said. He hoped that by doing this he would not only find his own inner peace, but also spark conversations just like this. That is the beauty of this country and our society. You, me, Tobias and others may disagree with Cindy's advice, but I respect that she is trying to help (albeit in a perhaps misguided way). There is an interesting sociology at work in this with how the sports world reacts to this. You, and others, are right: this should not be a big deal. Hopefully one day it will not. Today, though, what Collins did matters for a lot of people struggling with their identity and looking for their place in society -- a society that is becoming more accepting but still denies them many of the rights they feel should naturally be theirs. Again, having the discussion is the most important thing right now. I am glad we are able to provide a small forum for that here. Thank you for your comment.
@cindyswilson We are going to have to agree to disagree on this point.
If Jason is comfortable with who he is as a person and how that relates to his faith (if that matters at all to him), that is most important. He can deal with whatever spiritual consequences there are with who he is as a person later (and being gay is NOT a choice in my opinion, but that is a point that can be debated perhaps).
What is important is that he feels the freedom to be himself and that he is happy. Ultimately that is what this is about. Faith is a personal endeavor. If he can find peace in being who he is -- a gay man -- and with his religion, then he is walking the right path for him. It is better than living a lie.
No matter your opinion on gay rights, I am glad that you can feel happy that he has come to terms with who he is and his comfort with being who he believe he is rather than hiding and being something that he is not.
Thank you for your comment.
Congratution to Jason never suffocate yourself yes I know it hurt like hell to hold it in for years I been there when I was playing for Tenn UT and Atlanta I was so unhappy I went in the military to put it all behind me that didn't work Now im very happy with myself My family never turned they back on me and my sister was my biggest fan I know a few guys in the NBA and NFL but when they ready they will come out to