“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
On Sunday, I went to the Metreon in downtown SF to watch “42,” an overly dramatic but a damn good portrait of Jackie Robinson breaking the color-lines in baseball to become the first African American to play for a major league team in 1947. You watch it and think, “What awful times,” but the reality is that bigotry still exists in sports. I could see Hollywood making a film like “42” that would be reflective of today’s issues, only it being about professional athletes and gay rights. I hadn’t really heard of any professional athletes who were publicly out until Monday morning when I opened the newspaper and for the first time ever did not automatically throw out the green-colored sports page.
Collins is not Jackie Robinson, the man whose success on the baseball field gave mainstream white America a tangible, understandable example of integration. Most Americans have already figured out that they have a neighbor, a relative, a colleague who is gay.
“Society is way ahead of sports on this issue,” Welts said.
But Collins is an important figure. We have been waiting for a male professional athlete to come out, to break that final, long-forbidden barrier, if for nothing else than to say that it can be done. So that no one else has to be the first.
It is inspiring to read about Jason Collins’ leadership on this issue, but then I thought: whose business is it whether Collins sleeps with men or women? Perhaps I am oversimplifying a history of sexuality and sports that I am ignorant of. As others have noted in related articles in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, I am optimistic of the day when people can casually mention their partner in a conversation without having to repeat themselves, feel threatened, or be ashamed by others’ intolerance. To be publicly out in sports or any other industry for that matter–to make this statement “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay”– is part of a process that needs to happen today in order for LGBTQ rights to move forward toward normalcy.
You can read more about former-Stanford center Jason Collins, professional basketball, Jesus, Kobe, and coming out here.