WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Jason Collins rattled the status quo Monday by becoming the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major American sports.
The 24 hours that have followed the landmark announcement have served as a litmus test for society’s reaction when a superstar athlete follows in his footsteps.
“The story is not about Jason Collins and it’s not been about Jason Collins the second the story came out,” Bomani Jones told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny Tuesday. “As we saw yesterday, the story’s about us in the way that people react, the way the media reacts, the way that fans react.”
Following that narrative, we’ve seen an outpouring of support through social media.
Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 29, 2013
I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend. wjcf.co/154piCi—
Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 29, 2013
We’ve also seen personal opinions cloud objectivity in reporters generally not looked to for their opinion, as was the case with ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
As pointed out by Jones, Collins hasn’t been a household name since his playing days at Stanford – more than twelve years ago. This doesn’t make his decision to step out from the shadows any less meaningful, nor does it mean any fewer persons will be inspired to do the same.
“So this almost still becomes almost a theoretical discussion about this,” Jones said. “If this comes down to somebody that people know and people wear their jerseys, are people still going to wear that guy’s jersey when they go out somewhere? That I think is going to be the bigger test, and the reflection on us and how we perceive that, than what we get from what happened with Jason Collins.”
The world is rapidly evolving, and America remains a forbearer in leading the charge for acceptance. However, American sports have been behind the times in promoting an environment that’s accepting of a gay lifestyle.
It’s been nearly 49 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the result of a fearless movement hell-bent on exposing the longstanding ignorance of our nation, in regards to the unethical treatment of a large portion of its population as second-class citizens.
How foolish does that look now?
Collins’ decision to become the first gay professional athlete in American sports was not about making a name for himself, nor was it about sticking it to all the people who made him feel uncomfortable for being different.
His decision was about shedding labels, and the preconceived notions commonly associated with athletes and male machismo; that becoming a member of the physically elite isn’t exclusively reserved for straight men.
His decision was about being strong enough to show other men and women they can do the same.
And ultimately, his decision was about showing America that a man’s sexual preference has no place in sports, because it has no consequence on his ability to do his job.
Jason Collins may have paved the way for other, bigger named athletes to do the same in the future – whether that moment is tomorrow or another hundred years off – but what he should be thanked for most, is for advancing the conversation.
Acknowledging there is a gay basketball player in the NBA doesn’t force you to reevaluate your personal beliefs, it forces you to reevaluate why you thought they mattered to begin with.
If we look to sports figures as heroes and symbols of bravery, should we all not look to Jason Collins for demonstrating the greatest act of bravery?