Monday, April 29, 2013

Still-active NBA center Jason Collins comes out -- is this the "breakthrough" we've been waiting for?


by Ken

Okay, in connection with the coming out of Jason Collins (about which Howie wrote earlier today), it's fair to note that the 12-year NBA veterans, who split the past season between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, is 34 and a free agent -- i.e., a player without a contract, and at this stage of his career at best a "fill-in"-type player. So maybe it's not exactly the scenario some of us have fantasized about, of a star player in one of the "big four" sports leagues (Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League) to come out in something like the prime of his career.

Still, Jason is far from ready to pack it in, and has made his decision to own up publicly to who he is even as he faces the process of finding a new team to play for. And I think there should be a fair amount of interest in the inside look he's chosen to give us at this thought process. As ThinkProgress's Travis Waldron reported this afternoon (links onsite):
Jason Collins, a 12-year National Basketball Association veteran who played the 2013 season for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, became the first active openly gay male in the four major American professional sports today, when he came out in a self-written article that will appear in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” the first sentence, one that may go down as momentous as any written about sports before, reads. It is triumphant, a declaration the world of sports has been anticipating from someone — anyone — for months if not years. There have been gay pioneers in sports before — Billie Jean King was outed in 1981 and Martina Navritilova came out that same year — but in men’s sports, the only open athletes were those who had already finished their careers.

But behind the simple declaration that began the piece is a more telling story about where that movement still stands. Jason Collins was not open to any of the hundreds of men he’s called teammates, and he spent months debating the decision. In Washington, he wrote, he watched the Supreme Court debate the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, pained that he couldn’t speak openly about who he really was. By then he had determined he needed to be open, but he waited until after the season so as to keep his personal life from becoming a “distraction” for his team and his colleagues:
Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn’t come out sooner. When I signed a free-agent contract with Boston last July, I decided to commit myself to the Celtics and not let my personal life become a distraction. When I was traded to the Wizards, the political significance of coming out sunk in. I was ready to open up to the press, but I had to wait until the season was over.
A free agent who has become a journeyman in recent years, Collins played just nine minutes per game in six appearances after being traded to the Wizards. Now in search of a new team, Collins used the piece not just to describe why he came out now — “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too,’” he wrote — but also to let future teammates and perhaps executives know that he wouldn’t be gawking at them in the showers either:
I’ve been asked how other players will respond to my announcement. The simple answer is, I have no idea. I’m a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I’ve taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn’t an issue before, and it won’t be one now. My conduct won’t change. I still abide by the adage, “What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.” I’m still a model of discretion.
This is the true shame of the in-the-closet culture of sexuality in sports, where athletes like Collins and Robbie Rogers, the soccer player who came out as gay and promptly retired in February, feel a tinge of selfishness and guilt when they finally open up about who they really are. . . .
It's worth noting that the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, a far cry from what one would have expected even a couple of years ago. It's a measure of progress that the assholes have a harder time now expressing their asshole-ism. Which doesn't mean they won't be heard from. ThinkProgress's Annie-Rose Strasser reports("ESPN Sportscaster Immediately Trashes First Out NBA Player: Jason Collins Is Not 'A Christian'"):
An ESPN sportscaster went on the air on Monday to publicly gay-bash Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out Monday morning in an emotional op-ed, the first active male player of a major American sport to come out.

Speaking on ESPN's Outside rhe Lines, Chris Broussard said that he would "not characterize [Collins] as a Christian." He made the comments in front of his openly gay colleague LZ Granderson:
BROUSSARD: Personally, I don't believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you're openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that's a sin. If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don't think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.
Granderson reacted strongly to Broussard's comments, saying, "I really don't need Chris or anyone else telling me if I'm a Christian because Jesus tells me I am."

Broussard has previously written that he believes the NBA is "ready" for the first out player. But in that same essay, he also said it would make him "a little uncomfortable" to shower with a gay teammate. He also cast his doubt that being gay is biological, writing, "there are many scientists on both sides of the genetic debate, and I believe a truly objective person would admit the biological evidence for homosexuality is far from definitive."
Left unclear is what bearing Chris B's views of "Christian" behavior are thought to have on the NBA or anything else on the planet.



At 11:28 PM, Blogger Daro said...

Out of all the people I've met who spat the worst invectives against gays, it was African-Americans. I guess it's something in the culture but man, you'd never think the people most closely aligned with the Moral Majority on gay issues would be the Black community. So Jason has it double-bad when it comes to frowns from his peers.


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