It may not have been his intention, but NBA player Jason Collins has made history this week. Featured in a new Sports Illustrated cover story, Collins said, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." It's a simple statement, but an extremely ground-breaking one. The Washington Wizards star is the first professional athlete to come out while still playing the game.
Society is certainly more accepting of gay people than it was even a decade ago. It's wonderful that we can have hit television shows centered around gay parents and that some states are finally granting them the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to marriage and insurance coverage. Even the military is mildly more welcoming. Though one area seems to have remained staunchly straight -- pro sports.
Our teams have long been a bastion of uber-masculine, testosterone-fueled heterosexuality. And I imagine it's an incredibly intimidating environment for anyone who is slightly different in any way. Collins has been in the league for 13 years and just became comfortable enough to be open about who he is. He didn't even come out to his twin brother, also in the NBA, until last year. Now, with everything finally in the open, he feels free to really focus on his game.
It's crazy to think that Collins has made history just by speaking the truth, his truth. The definition of “hero” can take on many shapes, but they don’t all have to be over-the-top, life-saving gestures. This simple move will help more young people than any superhero ever would. It’s beyond brave and something no other gay athlete felt they could do before, even though several have come out after retirement. Who knows? This could go a long way in changing attitudes among other players as well.
Do you think Jason Collins' announcement was brave?
Image via Sports Illustrated