Monday, April 29, 2013

JASON COLLINS: HE'S NO JACKIE ROBINSON


On Monday afternoon, Jason Collins, an NBA journeyman, announced that he is gay. Nearly
every article that followed said Collins is the first active athlete in a major sport to come out
of the closet. That could be debated because his season is over and the odds of an NBA team
picking up a 34-year old veteran center who has averaged just over three points in his 11-year
career, is very slim. So, I'm not sure the term "active" really fits in this case.

That's not really the point, though. What Collins did took great courage and he should be admired
and respected for his decision. Perhaps, it will open the door for not only athletes, but people in all
walks of life, to tell the world what their sexuality is and not have to worry about being ostracized by from friends, family, and the public. The decision by Collins clearly shook up the sports landscape on Monday. Actors, broadcast journalists, musicians, and have come out and nodody has blinked.
This is an athlete in a major sport coming out, so I guess it takes on greater significance, for some
reason.

But please don't compare Collins to Jackie Robinson. Just don't.

Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. And he was chosen to be the
person to do it. Dodgers executive, Branch Rickey needed someone with thick skin, who could
turn the other cheek to the taunts and insults that Robinson would face as he shattered the barrier
of a sport that had been segregated for 50 years.
 

Collins himself, chose this point and time, to reveal his sexuality. His season, and perhaps his
career, are over. He probably won't have to worry about being harassed by fans and other players. Unlike, Robinson, Collins won't have to deal with death threats, bean balls from opposing pitchers, or getting spiked by runners trying to intimidate him.

Robinson wasn't allowed in the same hotels, restaurants, movie theatres, or even bathrooms as
his teammates. He had to drink out of a different water fountain. Collins doesn't have to worry
about any of that type of prejudice and second-class treatment. It's a different world for Collins
than it was for Robinson. Most of it is supportive, understanding, and has seen people much
more famous than Collins, come roaring out of the closet with great pride.


Back in the '50's, Robinson was the only black man in an all-white sport. He had nowhere to run
and nowhere to hide. His emotions and reactions were on display in a world filled with much more
hate than there is today. Robinson had teammates who hated him just because of the color of his
skin. I can almost guarantee you that many of Collins' teammates had an idea he was gay, but I
don't think any one of them will tell you they hated him because of it.

As someone who covered professional sports for many years, and played in college and minor-leagues, I can tell you that most athletes are more accepting of gays than the rest of society.
It does not bother 99 percent of the players in the game if they have a gay teammate They are mentally tougher, more focused, and just don't care what people are doing outside of the playing fields and locker rooms.

I think the media makes a bigger deal out of gays in sports than athletes and fans do. Nobody
cared when Brittany Griner, the top pick in the WNBA draft came out and said she was gay last week. Griner is a bigger name than Collins ever was until Monday afternoon. Why is it so
different? Is it because Collins is a man playing in the NBA?


This is a significant day for gay athletes in sports. Will Collins turn out be a trailblazer in all
of this? I don't think so. Other black baseball players saw how Jackie Robinson responded to
the taunts, death threats, and behavior of racist teammates. It remains to be seen if Collins even
gets offered an NBA contract next year and that itself could be key as to other players who might consider coming out. If they see that Collins doesn't get a contract, don't you think that'll make
them think twice about coming out. With all the money to be made in the NBA, do you think
they'd want to take the chance on not being offered a huge contract because of it?

Don't you think they'd want to see how Collins is treated next year by fans and the media before
thinking about coming out? If he gets verbally abused and hated upon, do you think they'd want
to go through that too, especially if they're playing for a big contract?

Yes, Collins is man of great courage, but we may never know just how resilient he is. We knew
what Jackie Robinson went through and how he shattered the color barrier. I'm not sure Collins
has taken a sledgehammer to the gays in sports barrier just yet.

I do know one thing, though. Collins is not Jackie Robinson. Not even close.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your evaluation of this announcement...100%.

    ReplyDelete