Well, it happened even faster than we expected. This, from the upcoming cover story in Sports Illustrated, a personal essay by NBA center Jason Collins: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
See more: The Jackie Robinson of Gay Rights”
“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. 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.”
As we pointed out in this column on April 19 (“The Jackie Robinson of Gay Rights”) Collins is not the first openly gay athlete in team sports. The first was Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s from 1976-1979. Burke raised his hand, and everyone pretended not to notice.
We’re glad to see that NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke up immediately in support of Collins: ” ….we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.” Proud, Stern said. That means there will be no hazing or gay baiting of Collins in NBA locker rooms or on the court.
Stern took the lead on this one. Now it’s time for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to follow suit, immediately and without equivocation.
Oh, yes, let’s give a nod to Nike, too. The company immediately spoke up in support of Collins, “Jason is a Nike athlete. We are a company committed to diversity and inclusion.” Now it’s time for the other sports and athletic equipment companies to speak up, loud and clear.