Published April 30, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – Jason Collins became the first active player in one of the four major U.S. sports leagues to come out as a gay man.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote in this week's "Sports Illustrated."
Collins wrote in more depth about why he made this decision, and this news apparently warrants an opinion from anyone.
The White House offers support. Former President Bill Clinton opined on Twitter and on his Foundation's website. NBA Commissioner David Stern released a press statement. The Washington Wizards, Collins' team last season, issued a statement.
The girl who played Blossom even put something on Twitter (it's true, by the way; she's cool with it).
That's a lot of important people concerned about Collins' love life.
Collins' peers were also active in social media praising him. Players like Kobe Bryant, who got caught and fined for using a horrible anti-gay word a few years back, was among a long list of fellow NBA players who offered both support and congratulations. Kevin Durant also said he was "fine with it."
Most are positive, at least from people we know.
From the faceless avatars in the comments section under Collins' article alone, there is hate and stupidity. Makes it very easy to see why this sort of proclamation took place in 2013, not a moment sooner.
There's a group who think this shouldn't even be considered a big deal. That's very true, but very naive. This is a huge deal. Professional sports date back to the 1800s. Sure, there have been gay athletes before, just none who was active in his or her sport.
Until today, that is.
And what will today bring?
To be honest, it's hard to envision anyone really bashing this decision. Political correctness is what you'll get, even if someone doesn't approve.
The only groups who could make waves about this are the misguided religious, who think the Bible they read condemns Collins' life, the fans and the athlete who still thinks the locker room is a sanctuary for those who border on the Neanderthal.
Fans will say anything in an attempt to rankle a player. Collins doesn't seem worried.
"I don't mind if they heckle me. I've been booed before," he wrote.
As for teammates, that is the great unknown.
"I have no idea. I'm a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst," Collins shared.
Collins exudes that kind of poignancy throughout the article. He wore No. 98 to honor Matthew Shepard, the gay young man who was beaten to death in 1998 for being different.
Have we evolved since then? Probably, at least to a degree that made Collins comfortable enough to come out. He said he was "glad" he was coming out now, not 10 years ago. Collins mentioned the case before the Supreme Court about same-sex marriages as another factor in his decision.
Whatever the reasons, they are his and shouldn't be open to scrutiny. Nothing should in this whole situation.
This is the most individual decision someone can make. We don't get to judge Collins' motivations. Unless you have lived his life, you don't know what it's been like. You don't get to tell another person how to live his or her life. You don't question someone's reasons for doing something like this.
Make no mistake, this is an risky time in Collins' life, at least professionally. He is a free agent this offseason and, at 34, there's no guarantee he will be an active NBA player for much longer. Collins played in 38 games this past season and averaged 1.1 ppg for both the Boston Celtics and a Wizards team which missed the playoffs.
Hopefully, we aren't at a level where people will say, if Collins isn't signed in the offseason, it had anything to do with this announcement.
As this column, one admittedly written without any knowledge of the subject, progressed, more players are tweeting support. More reporters say executives they talked to would sign Collins if he could play - sexuality be damned.
Let's hope the rest of the world is as tolerant.
It's hard to articulate why I think the world will be that. The world can be ugly sometimes.
Leave it to Collins to sum it up perfectly.
"Everyone is terrified of the unknown," he wrote, "but most of us don't want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against."
Here's hoping he's right.