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Collins continues path to acceptance in sports


Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 11:04

Jason Collins, an NBA journeyman of 12 years, made the biggest move of his career Monday when he disclosed to Sports Illustrated that he is gay.

Professional sports remain tied to its primitive, brutish roots and continue to be a homophobic sphere of American culture.

In his coming out, Collins challenged the sports world to advance and become supportive of gay athletes who have had to live private lives for fear of being ostracized by teammates and fans.

That fear is justified, as society expects professional athletes to exemplify manliness and exude testosterone through the mesh of their jerseys as if such things can be quantified like any other sports statistic.

Sports analysts have declared Collins to be the first active openly gay professional athlete and have likened him to Jackie Robinson.

Such comparisons are premature.

Collins, a free agent, has only seen court time as a role player, may not receive another contract and does not have the name recognition that NBA superstars have. His coming out is not likely to resonate with the general public, but it is a step forward for gay athletes to be accepted in sports.

Collins is not the first openly gay professional athlete. In the 1970s, Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics, was out to his team. Burke is known for inventing the high five in a game in 1977 and actually used the gesture with homosexual residents in San Francisco where it became a symbol of gay pride.

Maybe more athletes would come forward and support gay athletes coming out if they realized the most ritualized gesture in sports originated in the gay community.

Burke accomplished more than popularizing high fives. After the end of his career, he said people could never say a gay man could not play in the major leagues because he was gay and he made it.

Collins echoed those words Monday and is the first to add to Burke’s legacy. It is only a matter of time before the next professional athletes steps up to the plate and makes a similar confession.


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