NBA center Jason Collins made headline news Monday for revealing in Sports Illustrated that he’s gay
But who cares?
I don’t want to sound flip. I absolutely admire his courage. I just find it lamentable that in this day and age, Collins, who played for the Washington Wizards last season, is still the only active male athlete in a major professional sport who’s come out. Worse, Collins worries about the reaction. When asked about how he thinks other players will respond to his sexual orientation, he says: “The simple answer is, I have no idea.... I hope for the best but plan for the worst.”
One hopes that Collins’ announcement will encourage other gay male professional athletes to come out too. And that, eventually, the issue of sexual orientation will become a nonissue.
But as former professional football player Wade Davis has warned us, we need to proceed with caution and patience. “I understand the hope that some brave athlete in one of the ‘manly’ sports will come out and that this will transform sports culture, redefine our notion of masculinity and inspire millions of gay athletes battling the perception that gay men can't play sports,” Davis wrote in our Op-Ed pages in January. “But that's a lot of hope to hang on a single act.
“Transformation is likely to happen more slowly, and it's important that during that process, advocates of equality don't create their own form of oppression by bullying or calling out gay athletes who have chosen not to go public about their sexuality,” he wrote, also taking care to point out that “professional sports is still full of people happy to express their disapproval of homosexuality.”
Meantime, Collins may soon have some company. Last week, Alan Gendreau made news for disclosing his sexual orientation while trying out for the NFL. If he’s recruited, that’ll make two gay male athletes out in the world of professional sports.
Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier