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April 29, 2013

Active Pro Athlete Comes Out

Today', this month', make that THIS YEAR'S big news: NBA player Jason Collins comes out as gay.

I just got back from Turkey and am kind of recovering from traveling right now. That said, I'm still awake and aware enough to do a little (good!) freaking out/flailing about the first active pro athlete (other than, perhaps, the 1970s baseball player Glenn Burke) to come out to the world as gay.

So, yes, consider this Jason Collins post the COMING OUT AS A GAY ATHLETE big, bold, all-caps post towards which the previous posts in this series of discussions (here, here, here, here, and here) were leading.

The Sports Illustrated article containing Jason Collins's narrative is honest and straightforward.  The truths that he shares are simple in presentation, but contain a courage in their simplicity that reveals his desire to live his life without hiding from the world this basic part of himself.  As Collins says, "The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I'm much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy."

So far, the reactions to his coming out seem to be positive and supportive.  Today and in the upcoming days, I'm sure we'll see whether earlier interviews with sports personalities and athletes that showed support for a theoretical gay teammate will prove true in the face of an actual gay teammate.  

In my opinion, the most interesting and telling question of support may not be known until this summer when we see what happens with Jason Collins's free agency.  His career thus far seems to have been reliable and productive, and he's set to become a free agent in July.  In the world of sports, "free agent" means he's up for grabs, and he has stated that he intends to pursue a new contract.  It looks like he has more basketball to play in him, and seven-feet-tall players don't just grow on trees. With that said, the biggest and most revealing question of acceptance may come in whether and/or how the NBA teams react.  Will Jason Collins receive a new contract offer?  Will the contract offer(s) reflect his abilities? Will the team(s) take into account only merit or will they also consider his status as a gay athlete?  Not to be a downer or realist, but these questions are still unanswered.

Setting that aside, let's focus on the positive.  For now, this is amazing news. Groundbreaking, really. An active pro athlete came out today as gay. Wow. Can you imagine that headline even five or ten years ago? Perhaps more active gay pro athletes will follow in his footsteps. Perhaps other major professional sports will get their own "firsts" soon.  And perhaps there will eventually be a time when coming out as a gay athlete won't actually be front page, all-caps news at all.

Rooting for number 98,

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