Sports

Today is a Great Day for Equality in Sports

Jason Collins on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated (Image via Twitter.com/SInow)

Jason Collins on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated (Image via Twitter.com/SInow)

History has been made today. NBA player Jason Collin has become the first openly gay professional male athlete in a major sport, according to Sports Illustrated.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins said to Sports Illustrated.

A free agent who has played with the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics this past season told Sports Illustrates:

“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. 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.”

NBA commissioner David Stern applauded Collins in a statement cited by ESPN, noting, “Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld felt similarly, calling Collins “a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career” in a statement.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers told Sports Illustrated that he hoped that Collins’ revelation would begin to bring an end to questions of sexuality in sports.

“I never gave it a thought, I could care less,” said Rivers. “Every once in awhile you would hear about it from a player or a coach, but listen to me—I was brought up better than that. I don’t care. It never registered. I could care less. Why do so many people care? It’s no one’s business what you do. I’ve always felt that way and I’ve always had a strong belief about that—that it’s your preference, and so what? You can like who you choose to like, and you can love who you choose to love. That’s the way it should be. The thing that should be celebrated is that two people love each other, and that’s a good thing.”

Collins is not the first athlete to come out—just two weeks ago, women’s basketball superstar Brittney Griner said she was a lesbian and talked at length about her homosexuality. But Collins is the first active member of one of the four major men’s professional sports to publicly come out, and as he said in his essay, he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, according to The Atlantic.

Like Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) and Patrick Hruby (writer, Sports on Earth and The Atlantic) said in their discussion today: There will undoubtedly be negative reactions from homophobic fans and players alike. But the tide of public opinion has inexorably shifted against the bigots. When the 49ers’ Chris Culliver went on a homophobic rant before the Super Bowl, the condemnation was swift and universal (and as Culliver’s recent Instragram post shows, bigots are bigots across the board).

Although there will be negatives that come from this news, today is a great day for equality in sports. If Collins’s coming-out party is a success—and it will be—other active athletes will follow, and not just in the NBA.

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Support From Fellow Players.

— Lakers star Kobe Bryant: “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU.”

— Wizards teammate Bradley Beal: “Proud of @jasoncollins34 for expressing his feelings! Great teammate, mentor and better person !! #liveyourlife !”

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