NBA center Jason Collins becomes America’s first openly gay active player - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - May 1, 2013
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” wrote Jason Collins, a basketball player who is currently a free agent, and last season played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.
With those words in a Sports Illustrated cover story, he made history: the first active male athlete in a major US sport to come out.
Collins explained in the article that in the past he had struggled to understand his sexuality, had dated women when he was younger and only came out to his family in the last year. He said the shock of last month’s Boston bombings had reinforced his desire to go public. “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”
His words prompted an outpouring of support. “What you did today was brave,” Collins recalled President Barack Obama saying in a phone call. “It didn’t just affect me. It affected so many other people in the country. I’m proud of you.”
Collins acknowledged his forerunners, naming figures such as tennis legend Martina Navratilova, and John Amaechi, who announced that he was gay at the end of a five-year career in the NBA.
He also mentioned Robbie Rogers, who played in the US Major League Soccer and for Leeds United, who came out in February when he retired at the age of 25 (although he has since said he may play again).
British men’s soccer has a tragic history for gay players: the first player to come out, Justin Fashanu, subsequently killed himself after being accused of a sexual assault, which he denied. Currently there is not a single out gay player in England’s 92 professional soccer teams.
Collins faced a backlash from some quarters. One person took issue with his mention of his Christian upbringing. “I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding,” Collins said in his article.
An analyst working for the television channel ESPN, Chris Broussard, responded: “I believe that’s walking in rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian.” The sports network later issued a statement distancing itself from his comments.
But perhaps the real test of changing attitudes in sport will be seen if Collins is signed by another team for the forthcoming season. As Jim Buzinski, a co-founder of Outsports, a website for gay athletes and fans, told The New York Times “If he’s not on a team, he’s just another guy who did it at the end of his career, and he retired.”
1.)Can you think of anything in your life that you have found difficult to tell other people about?
2.) Why do you think it might be hard for someone to say that they are gay?
3.) Do you think it is important for famous people to announce that they are gay? Why/why not?
4.) What would you do to promote tolerance and understanding of everyone?