Jason Collins good for sports

On Monday, Washington Wizards Center Jason Collins became the first active professional athlete to announce he was gay in a Sports Illustrated cover story.

It’s about time. Good for Collins. Good for the gay community. And good for sports.

The bravery it took for Collins to be the first active athlete to come out is inspiring. It couldn’t have been easy.

There’s no doubt this is a sports story, but it has far reaching impact beyond a simple game. It’s another step in the right direction for tolerance in this country. Young, gay athletes can now look to Collins and see that it is alright to be themselves and comfortable in their own skin.

There’s no denying sports is and will continue to be conservative in nature. It’s almost like the military in that sense. Rough and tough men play sports. There’s no room for sissies on the gridiron, court or field.

Even with all the support Collins has received from fellow athletes in recent days, I guarantee that mindset still holds true for some. And it’s a damn shame. This is 2013, not 1950. Being gay doesn’t make you any less of a man or incapable of being a great athlete. It’s not a disease. Gay players can still workout just as hard and have a mental edge that makes all great players great.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said in an interview that the NFL isn’t ready for an openly gay player.

Why? If a player can contribute to the team, who could possibly care what they do when they go home? It doesn’t make sense to me. Their lifestyle has no effect on the rest of the team whatsoever.

When I heard the news on Monday, my first thought was who is going to be the first athlete to tweet or go on a sports talk radio show and say something stupid.

It was only a matter of hours before Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace became the big winner and by big winner, I mean big idiot.

In a tweet Wallace said, “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH (shakin’ my head).”

Sigh. It was predictable and inevitable that some athlete would say something ignorant. It’s just a shame that has to happen. To be fair to Wallace, he deleted the tweet and sort of apologized for the comment.

In an imperfect world, there is always going to be ignorance but that isn’t what this column is about. It’s a about a huge step for our culture.

Collins is the first, but there is zero percent chance he is the only active gay professional athlete. Hopefully, his bravery opens the door for more athletes to be open with who they are because they have nothing to be ashamed of. I can only hope we see multiple guys follow Collins’ lead and do the same in the coming weeks, months and years.

This is something that should have happened a long time ago. But better late than never.

“No one wants to live in fear,” Collins said. “I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew.”

Now Collins no longer has to live a lie. The days of pretending to be something he’s not are over. Good for him, good for sports and good for society as a whole. It’s about damn time.

 

Alex Ross is a senior sports communication major from Fishers, IN. He is the Scout sports editor.

Direct comments, questions and other responses to agross@mail.bradley.edu.