The quest for equality for gay athletes is a topic that, in the grand scheme of things, has barely been broached. It has been 66 years since Jackie Robinson first broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Forty-seven since Texas Western won the college basketball national championship with an all-black starting five. Title IX, giving women equal access to collegiate athletics rights, was passed 41 years ago.
Jeremy Lin caused a ruckus in the Asian community as one of the highest-profile Asian descendents to ever appear in an NBA game.
However, through each and every breakthrough, one group of men and women have been left behind.
One group has been left without an active voice in the athletic realm — until now, that is. On Monday, 34-year old and current free agent who spent the 2012-13 season as a Boston Celtics center, Jason Collins, wrote a guest piece for Sports Illustrated.
Here’s the very first line of the entire article:
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
The topic of openly gay athletes in professional sports has been a hot topic recently as men and women across the country debate how such a player would affect a team’s chemistry or locker room. Former Baylor women’s superstar and No. 1-overall pick in the WNBA Draft, Brittney Griner, recently came out as gay. However, men’s professional sports was still looking for a voice.
Collins is the very first active NBA player to come out. Here is an excerpt from the article on his decision to come out. For the entire read, visit Sports Illustrated.
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. …
Why am I coming out now? Well, I started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. I’m a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.
The first relative I came out to was my aunt Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco. Her reaction surprised me. “I’ve known you were gay for years,” she said. From that moment on I was comfortable in my own skin. In her presence I ignored my censor button for the first time. She gave me support. The relief I felt was a sweet release. Imagine you’re in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years.
This story is bound to be a huge deal.
It is bound to draw headlines nationwide and even worldwide. However, hopefully it passes. Hopefully it is met with very little fanfare.
Hopefully, “being different” is not treated as a big deal.
Hopefully, men such as Collins can come out and, instead of being treated like an openly gay athlete, can be treated like what they are: An athlete.