Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Something Good Happened

Jason Collins is a professional basketball player.  Jason Collins is a very good professional basketball player.  Jason has been in the NBA for 12 seasons, and has played for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards.  Jason Collins has a couple of championship rings.  Jason Collins is a 7 foot plus center who is an aggressive player both on the offensive and defensive side of the court.  Jason Collins went to Stanford and made it to the NCAA championship on the same team as his twin brother Jarron.   Jason Collins is a very good basketball player.  Jason Collins is also gay.  Jason made a decision after the end of his most recent season with the Wizards which has seen him move into free agency that he couldn't sit back and hide who he was anymore.  There are many reasons for his decision to announce his orientation and his words describe those reasons better than I can.

This is a very good thing.   We have for some time now seen a softening of the general opinion towards LGBT people and a progression towards important things like marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  So, this event is one of an ever increasing series of events in our wonderful experiment that is America that is moving towards stopping or curbing bigotry towards homosexuality.

The reason this is a very good thing is that professional athletics, and particularly male-dominated professional sports such as football, baseball, basketball and hockey seem to have been the last bastion of tolerated homophobia.  Not necessarily by the players, as evidenced by the outpouring of support for Jason by his team mates, coaches and friends in the game, and not by the owners either, who have been supportive of Jason's decision as well.  The principle level of bigotry seems to rest with the fans.  I don't mean overt bigorty such as those lunatics from the Westboro Baptist Church like to display on a daily basis, but a latent, and hidden bigotry that has kept athletes like Jason in the closet while being active in their professional careers.  We've had athletes come out before, but not until after they had retired and were out of the game and limelight for a period of time.  For whatever reasons they had, they kept their orientation to themselves.  They might have thought of a backlash by teammates, by fans, etc.  It really doesn't matter and there is no value judgement that should be held against anyone in my view as their personal situation is just that: personal.   However, Mr. Collins decision to come out while still active in the NBA is a bold and a welcome move.

Professionial athletes are lionized in our society.  Our kids look up to them as role models.  I know when I was a kid I idolized baseball players and some football players and looked up to them as they carried themselves in the public view.  I admired those athletes in the 60's who marched in civil rights marches as well as those in the 1940's and 1950's, after Jackie Robinson broke through the color line to join the Dodgers (side note: If you haven't seen "42" yet, please go and see it.  Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey is one of his best roles yet, and the young man, whose name escapes me that portrays Robinson does it with great results), that stood up to prejudice because someone happened to be not-white.  To me, this decision by Jason Collins is a culmination of the efforts started so long ago to fight against the stupidity of bigotry and prejudice.  Mr. Collins is a role model because he is a professional athlete.  He is admired by his fans many of whom are kids.  He has, by his decision to come out done a great service to many who are gay but hide it, or who are confused about who they are and why they feel different from their friends.   Perhaps this decision will provide the confidence for a young man or woman to come out to their friends or parents.  Perhaps we will see a continued erosion and declination of old and tired prejudices.  Perhaps we will see people for who they are, appreciate them for what they do, and not be worried they are flawed or sick or deviant or sub-human as some of the very few demented people who have commented negatively about this decision suggest.

It is right and proper that Mr. Collins' decision to come out comes on the 50th anniversary year of Dr. King's "I have a Dream Speech".  Dr. King's plea for people to be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin is a relevant today and in regard to Mr. Collins decision as it was during 1963.   Mr. Collins character has been revealed.  It is strong.  It is confident.  It is honest.   I think Mr. Collins example as a professional athlete will benefit this country in many different ways.  I am very glad Mr. Collins decided to make this decision. It is a decision that's time has come.

A good thing happened this week.  We've not had a lot of them but I am very glad this one did.

Tell me what you think.


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