What NBA basketball player Jason Collins did on Monday shouldn’t warrant the wall-to-wall media coverage it provoked.
Jason Collins, a free agent who has played 12 seasons for six professional basketball teams, announced that he is gay.
In doing so, Jason Collins became the first active professional athlete in the four major sports (basketball, baseball, hockey and football) to admit – a really strong word, in this case – his same-sex attraction.
That Jason Collins is gay should not garner 500 words in a newspaper, but it will come closer to generating enough column inches to cover Rhode Island.
A utopia we are not, and Jason Collins’ sexual orientation does matter. The fact that it matters, perhaps, matters more than anything else he has done or will do in his lifetime. It’s not that he’s gay, or that he is openly gay, or that he is a gay athlete; it’s that no active gay athlete before him has spoken out and the myriad reasons that have prevented them from “coming out.”
It’s that Jason Collins has traded a security blanked for liberation in the testosterone-filled cathedral of sports, a realm where worshiping is delivered through heckling. For the adoration he’ll be bestowed for blazing a trail, others will respond with varying levels of hatred.
It’s that he will step in an arena holding more than 20,000 people 82 times next year to be judged. And it’s that he knows this.
“If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be. I think that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” said ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard, according to CNN.
To say that he will solely use the announcement to benefit himself – with book deals and speaking arrangements and a Q Score that soars through the roof – is to ignore the antithesis of the announcement’s root: love.
Being gay isn’t a story, but using a platform to change lives despite inevitable fallout is worthy of adoration.
“When I was younger I dated women,” Jason Collins wrote in simple terms for Sports Illustrated. “I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.”
As a center who played 10.1 minutes on average in the 38 games he played last year, as a 7-foot-tall basketball player who averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game, Jason Collins’ face shouldn’t be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
That it is, though, could eradicate fear, or even shame, from people among us without the ability to live in truth.
Jason Collins won’t change how other people see him, but he can change how other people see themselves.