Former Celtics center Jason Collins came out of the closet in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, proclaiming
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay”
It’s a watershed moment in sports, marking the first time an active professional athlete in any of the four major professional sports has announced his homosexuality. In the piece, he says
“I realized I needed to go public when Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy,” Collins explains. “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.”
I’m proud of anyone who takes a tough stand like this, but I’m especially happy that an active professional athlete has decided to lead a charge like this. It’s my personal opinion that whomever Jason Collins chooses to love off the court has no bearing on his ability to do his job.
So none of this really matters, except that it does. At least it does right now. And this is a necessary step to get us closer to making it not matter. The next step is more players from more sports being inspired enough by Collins to say “you know what… I’m not hiding anymore either.”
Only then can those who will undoubtedly flinch in the face of the news come to understand that it’s ultimately meaningless. Eventually, maybe even a star player will have the guts to do the same.
Until then, I applaud Jason Collins, and the NBA, who made the following statement in response to the Collins news:
“As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. 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.”
The NBA has been at the forefront of this issue, and it’s continued show of support at times like this will only make it easier to improve peoples’ attitudes towards homosexuality.
UPDATE: Doc Rivers has issued a statement, which is predictably great.
“I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’s a pro’s pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite “team” players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be its not up to you, it’s just me being me.'”