Thank God for something substantial to keep Tim Tebow’s being cut by the Jets from taking up all the sports talk today.
The big news today — one of the year’s biggest sports stories in America — is that, for the first time ever, a male athlete in one of the country’s four major sports leagues has come out as gay while still playing.
With all the talk about the possibilities of a football star coming out — recently released Baltimore Ravens linebacker and longtime gay-rights advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo said that as many as four current NFL players could come out simultaneously soon, and the LGBT-friendly Deadspin has been getting mileage out of the possibility that Arizona’s Kerry Rhodes, one of the league’s top shutdown corners, is gay — no one saw it coming from a journeyman pro, and certainly not from the NBA.
But here it is: Jason Collins, a 12-year free-agent center out of Stanford who played for his fifth and six pro teams (Celtics and Wizards) this past season, sat down with Sports Illustrated’s Franz Lidz and told his story. (The print version comes out Thursday.)
Collins is a big man — an even 7 feet — but no bigger than he is today. He took it upon himself, and in the month of Jackie Robinson, no less, to be the one to open the floodgates to acceptance and ending the titillation about sexual identity and taking the huge step toward ending public prejudice once and for all.
As someone who faced all the fears of coming out in recent years (sure, transgender isn’t gay, but we, as groups, have historically shared the same set of abuses) — and who has been rewarded with more love, acceptance and respect than I ever imagined were possible — I couldn’t be happier for him. He will receive a lot more of that love and support and respect than he could have ever thought, and while athletes are traditionally prone to wacko hate mail and terrible tweets without coming out, the percentage of haters will be small. The world is his.
Congratulations, Jason — you’ve taken the first big step to “Meh.” And I mean that in the best way possible. As in, a couple years from now, being an out gay pro athlete will be no big thing, just as it’s no big thing to be a black quarterback anymore.