Monday, April 29, 2013

Jason Collins

Today, Jason Collins became the first professional athlete in one of the four major American sports to declare himself gay while still an active player, to which I congratulate him.  Attitudes have changed immensely in this country, my own attitude included.  Twenty-five years ago, a classmate of mine at college gave a speech in our Public Speaking class on how we should support his rights as a gay man.  He was openly gay, and a number of people in class were uncomfortable with him, myself being one of them.  I responded to him by giving a speech religious-based on how I could not in good faith be supportive.

Years later, my brother came out.  I never suspected he was gay, though I guess I should have.  There were hints of it, but my gaydar isn't really that good.  Since 2002 when he came out, I have worked hard to become a better brother, friend...and have changed my attitude towards the LGBT community.  To that point, I want to apologize to my former classmate Todd for being so narrow-minded.  I should've accepted his differences, ALL of our differences - fortunately, I've grown.


The media is making a huge deal out of this - to an extent, it is.  But I hear some comparing this to Jackie Robinson's integration of baseball, and I think this is going too far.  Why?

  1. The United States was segregated at this time.  Horribly segregated.  Robinson began playing baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1947...seventeen years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended most of the segregation of this country.  There were hotels he couldn't stay at with his teammates, restaurants that wouldn't serve him.  Today, the LGBT community lives largely unaffected within every American community.
  2. There have been some gay men who played in the major leagues before:  John Amaechi, Billy Bean, Wade Davis to name a few.  Before Robinson, the last African-American to play baseball was Moses Fleetwood Walker, who was chased from the game by Cap Anson among others in 1889.  African-Americans couldn't hide among their peers on the field/court/ice.  They couldn't hide in plain sight, like the gay athlete could.
  3. There has been an growing movement among professional athletes encouraging someone to come out.  Chris Kluwe has been outspoken on this issue, as has Brendon Ayanbadejo.  Today, Jason Collins' Twitter followers jumped from 4,000 to over 35,000, and positive Twitter responses have outnumbered negative ones by 4-1.  On the other hand, Jackie Robinson was not welcomed as warmly - while some teammates accepted him immediately, the abuse he suffered from fans, opposing teams and some teammates early in his career may have contributed to his stress-related illnesses later in life, to which he finally succumbed at age 53. 
So, I want to congratulate Jason Collins, and I hope that he is in the NBA next year.  I hope the announcement gives him some peace of mind, and I hope teammates and our society continues to be as welcoming as they appear in the first moments of this coming out.  But the next big, BIG barrier we're to face?

When a woman attempts to make a realistic attempt to play in one of those four leagues.  And you know what?  It's coming.