Sports

SIDELINES: Jason Collins sparks gay movement in sports

The groundbreaking cover story in which Jason Collins comes out as the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport. - Copyright Sports Illustrated
The groundbreaking cover story in which Jason Collins comes out as the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport.
— image credit: Copyright Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins became the first active player in one of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as openly gay.

The Stanford University graduate, who played with the Washington Wizards this season in the National Basketball Association (NBA), did so in a Sports Illustrated article posted Monday.

It's been a long time coming, mainly because of the notion that male professional athletes are the alpha-dogs of the world. Ultra-competitive people who would run over their own mother to get a win. A majority of men dream of being them and there are plenty of women who want to be with them, so to speak.

It would be impossible to be a homosexual male in today's sporting landscape, right? Actually, no.

It seems like the opposite has happened. Collins' announcement has garnered plenty of "incredible" support, he said.

Sure, there are always going to be the ill-informed, set-in-their-ways person who thinks their lifestyle should be pushed on everybody else in the world. These people are never going to change, no matter what happens.

It warms my heart that Collins is receiving widespread support for his decision to "come out." It should lead the way for others to follow in his footsteps. Here's hoping that, in the future, a player's sexual preference is a non-story.

I, for one, really don't understand why somebody's sexual preference is even a story. What's the big deal? Does it affect how Collins plays basketball? Would he be a better player if he was married with two mistresses, like some of his teammates?

Being gay is not a contagious disease. Players who come into contact with Collins aren't going to, all of a sudden, start finding other men attractive.

LeBron James isn't going to play defense against Collins and suddenly want to put together a brunch complete with a vegetable quiche, decorative melon balls and mimosas.

Carmelo Anthony isn't going to block Collins out for a rebound and then head straight for a boutique following the game to come up with a new wallpaper-curtain-furniture interior design combination for his formal living room.

Chris Paul isn't going to steal a pass from Collins and become obsessed with Broadway musicals.

That's just not how things work. And what does a professional athlete's off-the-field conduct or sexual preference have to do with what they can accomplish on the field anyway? The easy answer is, it doesn't.

All you have to do is complete a Google search of "professional athletes charged with crimes." The list is staggering and a lot of the guys are still playing.

Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick spent 23 months in prison after being convicted of financing a dog fighting operation. Kobe Bryant, one of the most popular and highest-paid athletes in the world, is an admitted adulterer who was accused of rape just a few years ago. The same goes for Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Collins' only "crime" is being a homosexual.

"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," Collins wrote. "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."

Several male athletes have previously come out after they retired, including the NBA's John Amaechi, the NFL's Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball's Billy Bean. But Collins is the first to do so while planning to continue playing.

Professional soccer player Robbie Rogers, who publicly came out early this year, tweeted, "I feel a movement coming," in reaction to Collins' announcement.

"I think, I know, in my personal life, I'm ready and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player," Collins told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday. "I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness, whatever happiness that is in life. I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I've ever been in my life."

Dozens of NBA players sent messages to Collins after the Sports Illustrated story. Even President Barack Obama called Collins to offer his support.

"It's incredible. Just try to live an honest, genuine life and the next thing you know you have the president calling you," Collins said. "He was incredibly supportive and he was proud of me, said this not only affected my life but others going forward."

Former President Bill Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, was a classmate of Collins at Stanford, said it was "an important moment for professional sports."

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