History has been made in America: We have our first openly gay active professional athlete. Or, should the headline be a little different than that?
Word got out on Monday that Jason Collins, most recently a center for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, spilled the big news in a Sports Illustrated interview to be released on May 6th. “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” he said.
In a way, I was not surprised. According to Gallup Politics over 76% of 18-34 year olds believe that gay and lesbian relations should be legal (as recently as 2004, half the U.S. population disagreed). The tide has clearly turned on same-sex marriage. Anti-gay epithets are now off-limits in the public sphere. An entire generation has grown up generally knowing and accepting LGBT peers. So my first reaction was kind of like, “What’s the big deal?”
Well maybe the real news here is how positive everyone’s reaction has been. Collins’ team, the NBA and others have stood by him as he entered uncharted territory. Even President Obama called to commend Collins’ bravery.
Kobe Bryant, fined $100,000 by the NBA two years ago for using an anti-gay slur on the court, tweeted:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 29, 2013
Note all the re-tweets and favorites. America is proving to be more tolerant than I really expected.
In recent years we’ve seen young people bullied to the point of suicide because of their sexuality. The notable “It Gets Better” campaign targeted young gays to let them know they aren’t alone. In the culture of sports, especially, homosexuality is a stigmatized thing. So much so that even fully grown men, other professional athletes who are gay have often waited until they had retired from sports to “come out”. It’s nice to see a diversity of celebrities and role models leading the charge to prevent the degradation of others.