Wednesday, May 1, 2013

NBA Veteran Jason Collins is a Groundbreaker

Jason Collins is the first openly gay athlete in a major American sport. (USA Today Sports)

This is a post about Jason Collins. It is not the story of Jason Collins, which has been told over and over since Monday when, in a Sports Illustrated feature, he revealed his homosexuality and became the first publicly gay athlete in any of America's four major professional sports.

Collins' announcement is historic and should pave the way for others to follow his precedent without the fear of being ostracized, humiliated or suffering any other negative backlash that would impede a proud coming out. That Collins' announcement is a major story in a time as supposedly as progressive as 2013 could be seen as sad, but someone had to break the barrier and and there was no one better for the job than Collins — an intelligent, well-liked, amiable teammate if there is one — not that we know of, anyway. Among others, several members of the Miami Heat have already expressed their support for and acceptance of Collins and those who will follow in his footsteps.

There are two sides to every coin, of course, but the ugliness of discrimination has been mostly marginalized on the national radar in the wake of Collins' announcement. In itself, this is a sign of progress, but not one as large as Collins' act of bravery.

By no means is he an all-star; at best, Collins is a journeyman — a player who does enough of the little things correctly to keep earning contracts. He is a fringe player who, until this week, was mostly unknown outside fans of the NBA and Stanford, his alma mater. A gay basketball phenom may someday eclipse Collins' star and that will be important, but Collins' initiation of the conversation about homosexual players in the ranks of active professional athletes is going to be a longstanding benchmark. Rightly so.

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