They are words that will resonate in the halls of professional sports forever. While the NFL apparently has four active players ready to announce that they are gay, NBA center Jason Collins beat them to the punch. The Former New Jersey Nets’ big man and current NBA free agent announced on Monday that he’s three things: a 34-year old black man, a basketball player and gay.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins said in a Sports Illustrated article which will run later this week. “I didn’t set out 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.”
Collins, who played a majority of his career with the New Jersey Nets, says that it wasn’t easy to come out of the closet. He admitted that he didn’t want to have to be the first one, but he recognizes the importance of the issue and that it needs to be brought to everyone’s attention that you shouldn’t hide who you are.
“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand,” Collins said.
Towards the end of the self-written article, Collins breaks down the barrier people tend to have that they’ve never met a gay person. In his words, Collins says that the Three Degrees of Jason Collins means no NBA player can say that any longer.
“Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore,” Collins wrote. “Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”
This announcement is no doubt going to draw it’s criticism, as homosexuality in this country sadly isn’t embraced by everyone. But when Collins says that the Three Degrees to himself means no NBA player can say they’ve never met a person who is gay, he forgot someone. Collins forgot the millions of fans that have watched him over the years, the reporters who have interviewed him and the people he’s walked amongst.
There’s no agenda here. Collins isn’t asking for money, he’s not campaigning for public office and he’s not rubbing this in anyone’s face. This is simply a man trying to be who he is, which is something every human being has the right to do. Jason Collins isn’t forcing this on anyone, he’s living his life the way he wants to in the freest country in the world.
I guess the point is, Jason Collins walks among us, as do millions of other men and women who feel the same way that he does. He states that pro basketball is a family, but it’s really a subsection of a larger family we all share called humanity. But hte best part about htis annoucement almost isn’t the announcement itself, it’s the reaction to it.
This announcement may pave the way for more active athletes to come out as gay, but even if it doesn’t, people are doing something surprising — they’re being tolerant and accepting of Collins. People around the country on Twitter and other social media are openly remembering that they have brothers and sisters in this family of humanity that feel with way Jason Collins does, and everyone is treating Collins the way he’s treating this announcement: with care, with honesty and with respect.
If that just doesn’t boost your faith in the human race and put a smile on your face, I’m not sure what will.