A Gay Athlete: Jeremy Collins Changes the Game

On April 29th, the NBA became a new game.

Jason Collins, a center for the Washington Wizards is gay. And everybody knows it. 

Oh yeah, and he’s black.

There he is.
There he is.

“The decision” was published on Sport Illustrated, GrantLand, Forbes and every other sports interested magazine/paper or article online and in print. People posed philosophical questions, “Will this end athletic homophobia?” and “What will sports look like tomorrow?”.

In an interview with Sport Illustrated, Collins explains his reasoning for the announcement:

“I didn’t set our to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had it my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.” – Jason Collins

As thousands of media outlets analyze, judge and praise Collins, the meaning of his coming-out is still being decided upon by critics. What will this do? What will this change things? The weight of these questions is being placed on a person who stated his sexual preference for men. Is that fair?

Creative Title...
Creative Title…

Ok, let’s pretend I don’t go to the University of Oregon, I’m not a more liberal thinker in my 20s and into that “social awareness, human rights, hippie stuff” that my parents associate me with. Without those mindsets, this is a big deal! The NBA is a highly masculine, win or die, rippling testosterone field of Men, capital M. Being gay is about the biggest weakness you can present to your offender in sports. Since racist slurs aren’t fair game anymore, 83% of the NBA belongs to a non-white party, all that was left were homophobic trash talk. What now!? Collins has taken some of that way. A gay-identifying man is playing a sport that thrives on anti-gay stereotypes like “More money, more cash, more hoes” (as Jay Z would say).

Now back to my Oregon self. This shouldn’t be a big deal. At all. That fact that it is a big deal is America’s admission that homophobia and homosexuality is still as shocking and abnormal to us as it was back in biblical times. This is proof we haven’t progressed nearly as far as we want to think. Not ok. However, this is our world and everyone is tripping all over themselves praising and thanking Collins for…being who he is?

However, some have a more realistic and somewhat fairer perspective on this chaos of honesty. GrantLand writer, Charles P. Pierce, wrote:

“Let us be decent and honorable and do what we can to spare Jason Collins the burdens of history. Let us be humane and not make of him the vehicle of our hopes for a better world. Let us be, for lack of a better word, Christian enough not to make out of Collins’s undeniably brave decision to announce that he is gay the vessel into which we pour enough of our own precious tolerance to admire ourselves in its reflection. Let’s not make him more of a symbol than he wants to be.”

But…we want to, and we want to so badly!

We tried and failed with the coming outs of Brittney Griner, WMBA player, and musical artist Frank Ocean.

You Go Girl
You Go Girl

Brittney failed, since duh, she’s a woman playing a highly-masculine sport and many people think it goes without saying (rude). In reality, Brittney isn’t getting nearly enough “credit”. She set the tone with her Sports Illustrated interview about “being a gay role-model” for women. Like it was as casual as cake at a birthday party, Griner said she was gay. Since the statement was made on April 18, journalists have been staking out every “suspected gay” male athlete. Which one will it be? Who will come out next? Griner’s disclosure of her sexuality allowed a not-so-hard landing for whoever was next. We all knew this would be coming and journalists were right, in 2 weeks time, there was a gay male athlete.

Ocean’s revelation should have caused mass chaos because the only thing pumped with more testosterone is Rap and R&B. Frank Ocean wrote on his blog,

Just sing to me forever Frank Ocean
Just sing to me forever Frank Ocean

“I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence … until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It would change my life […]” 

As a member of OFWGKTA, an aggressive and often vulgar homophobic rap group, Frank Ocean lends his voice for their eclectic hit songs.

(WARNING: EXPLICIT)

His mix tape “Nostalgia Ultra” and new album “Channel Orange” have infiltrated every sorority/frat and underground group in the nation. His widespread success hasn’t been phased in one way or another by his previous male relationship. Perhaps it’s because Ocean identifies as Bi-sexual, not as hard hitting as homosexual. Or maybe because he immediately received support from co-artist Tyler the Creator and is closely linked with big dogs such as Kanye West and Jay Z. Either way, the haters quickly became muted due to the threat to their own career and it became a silent issue.

But, now we have the top-tier of America’s attention: A gay black man who is good, but not Jordan at basketball. He is the norm, he sets the tone for change. At least, we want him to set the tone.

New Gay Pride Pointman?
New Gay Pride Pointman?

In the GrantLand article, Pierce sums up the world’s desires of Collins’: “Disembodied history is anesthetized history. Given our druthers, we seem to prefer to cast some people in marble rather than to recognize that people who take a stand for themselves and their dignity generally do so against something in which most of us are complicit.”

What ever the critics decide, Collins took the chance to be honest. He has the decision to be as shocking or cavalier about the situation, and that’s pretty powerful.

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