To Jason Collins, American sports’ first active and openly gay athlete: Thank You

Washington Wizards center Jason Collins prior to the game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Wizards defeated the Suns 88-79. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington Wizards center Jason Collins prior to the game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Wizards defeated the Suns 88-79. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Good for you, Jason Collins. There are few larger life-altering events than a man or woman stepping out of the closet. It takes courage knowing your life will never be the same. Many people will treat you differently—some for better, some for ill—but you have removed the albatross from around your neck. Regardless of public opinion, you can wake up every morning without having to shoulder the load of a secret identity.

[Related: Read an excerpt of Collins’ guest piece for Sports Illustrated in which he comes out]

Thank you, Jason Collins. Thank you for breaking through a depressingly outdated barrier in men’s sports. It’s amazing that sexual orientation is a watershed topic amongst male athletes, yet it is a complete non-issue among their female counterparts. Jason Collins stepping out makes the front page; Brittany Griner talking about being a lesbian barely makes the daily newspaper. This speaks volumes to the braggadocious, blustery bullshit that has permeated American men’s professional sports—image consciousness and ego inflation. For all of the gender inequity in professional sports, this is one area where women rule the men. Finally a man has risen above the silent bullying machismo.

Kudos, Jason Collins. You are the absolute perfect individual to set forth professional sports’ newest integration. You are well educated, well respected by your peers, and, most of all, well adjusted. Your insistence of not wanting to be a public figurehead is the right attitude. You want to live your normal daily life, with the exception of having to withhold your sexuality. This is any social movement’s endgame: normality. Sexuality, race, gender, nationality can all be cast aside and we can treat people as individuals.

There must always be the leaders, the outspoken, the champions of causes. And it is important never to forget where a struggle started, or how long it persisted. Ultimately, though, success lies with the common man. Jason Collins unloaded a burdensome secret, and now expects to life a normal life. This may be his biggest contribution.

[Related: Hines Ward does not believe the NFL is ready for an openly gay player]

Congratulations, teammates and associates of Jason Collins. Nearly as significant as Collins’ announcement is the warm reception he has received from fellow athletes. Professional athletes from across the world of sports made a point to congratulate, welcome, and offer support to Jason Collins. This outpouring shows that a man’s character outshines his sexuality and even his playing abilities. There will always be ignorance—such is still true with racism and sexism—but today proved that intolerance of a gay teammate is an aberration, not the norm.

Welcome, sports fans—especially those of Jason Collins. Welcome to a new, more tolerant community. Whether we like it or not, sports is inextricably tied to real-world issues. We saw it with Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, and the Boston Marathon.

Sports offer an escape from the rigors of life, but sometimes, though, they dovetail with world affairs.

Hopefully this is a case of sports being a metaphor for life. Hopefully people will still see Jason Collins, and future gay athletes, for what they are: men paid to play games. Hopefully, by taking global headlines, Jason Collins has helped dispel all the misconceptions held about homosexuality. Hopefully the next men to come out the closet make fewer headlines. Jason Collins has helped topple the industry’s largest shortcoming, and hopefully, has allowed us mature beyond inequalities and focus on the games at hand.

Bill and Chelsea Clinton express their support of Collins’ decision to come out