SBD/May 1, 2013/Sports in Society

Collins Has Received "Overwhelming" Support, Is Not Worried About NBA Future

Collins does not think his sexual orientation will be a factor in the locker room
Wizards C Jason Collins continues to discuss his decision to announce he is gay, becoming the first active male athlete in any of the four major sports to do so, and he told the N.Y. TIMES' Frank Bruni, "I expected some support for my teammates, from my coaches, but to get all the support from every single person I talked to ... from the NBA family, the Stanford family ... It's been overwhelming." He added, "It's my responsibility to acknowledge those who came before me, give credit to them, and then there are those who are going to come after me, and it's my responsibility to lift them up." Collins, who is due to become a free agent this summer, said of his NBA future, "I'm sure that teams will look at my basketball, look at what I have to offer. My role in the NBA is as a backup center, and I know that I'll be ready at any moment" (NYTIMES.com, 4/30). Collins sat for an hour-long podcast with GRANTLAND.com’s Bill Simmons, who said, “You're going to be a gay role model for basically this generation. Did that enter your thinking at all?” Collins: “A little bit, but honestly I was thinking about just being honest with myself and with the general public, coming out on my own terms and controlling putting my story out there. But yes, I acknowledge that it has a greater impact on society overall.” Collins said he is not planning on releasing a book about his story as of right now, but noted former U.S. national soccer team MF Robbie Rogers, who came out in February, has asked him to "take part in doing a segment for some documentary that’s being produced by Steve Nash, or something along those lines." Collins: "I might sit down and give an interview, but it’s not going to be the Jason Collins story” (“The B.S. Report,” GRANTLAND.com, 4/30).

A SIGN OF THE TIMES: It has been more than 48 hours since Collins' announcement was first posted on SI.com, and CSNNE.com's Rich Levine wrote, "I’m happy to report that we’re all still here." Levine: "No riots. No locusts. No end of days" (CSNNE.com, 4/30). In Miami, Linda Robertson writes the news is a "big deal," as it is a "symbolic first step in a major sport for an active player" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/1). The GUARDIAN's Hunter Felt wrote Collins "matters because he brings society one step closer to a future where a player's sexual orientation actually won't matter" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 4/30). In Arizona, Patrick Finley notes Collins is "well-liked around the league, which might explain why Monday's announcement was met with little rancor." But it also is a "sign of the times." Our view of "homosexuality in culture has changed, even in the last decade" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 5/1). In New Jersey, Stephanie Akin writes Collins' revelation "shifted the conversation surrounding homosexuality in American sports." The question was "no longer when will an athlete in a major sports league come out, but when will it be so commonplace that no one cares?" The "high-profile endorsements that followed Collins' declaration ... seemed to back up a trend that polling data have shown for a while: Americans are beginning to accept homosexuality as part of mainstream culture" (Bergen RECORD, 5/1). In Cincinnati, C. Trent Rosecrans wrote it seems "most of the sports world is behind Collins, and that seems to show that not only was it time for this, but possibly overdue" (CINCINNATI.com, 4/30). However, in Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes, "Our society likes to believe it took a major step Monday by rallying behind Collins, but in many ways it revealed just how much it lagged behind in the first place" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/1).

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes it "could be years before we see the full effect of Collins' announcement." For now, the "real test isn't to see how the public is going to react to Collins, but how other athletes react to him." The cause "hasn't ended with Collins' announcement." It is "just getting started" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/1). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes Collins is "like a relay runner ready to pass the baton of equality to anyone emboldened enough to carry it" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/1). A BUFFALO NEWS editorial states Collins' declaration is a "watershed moment in sports and American history." Not just because of "the message itself, but because of the overall positive reaction from players, coaches and fans." That is "something to celebrate" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/1). CBS Sports Network’s Allie LaForce said, “There are so many people in professional sports, fans and people of the LGBT community who consider him to have made heroic actions because he has opened up the door for other professional athletes to come out” ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 4/30). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Simon Kuper writes this acceptance is "partly because today's athletes belong to a gay-friendly generation." But it also "has to do with the ideology of sport: what matters are results" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/1).

NO ROOM FOR IGNORANCE: FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock wrote soon the "kind words of support will quit pouring in and the forces of regression will pick apart his exquisitely crafted story, question his motives and loudly protest that the gay man's seat at the table of equality will lead to the ruin of this great nation." Whitlock: "I fully expect -- and quite frankly I demand -- David Stern to use his power to ensure that Jason Collins has a job in the NBA for 82 games next season." This is a "chance for basketball to be as important as baseball in 1947" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/30). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote Collins' "spotlight also will shine on those clinging to ignorant, bigoted beliefs." Several of Bears LB Lance Briggs' Twitter followers "asked him about Collins." Each time, he "actively tweeted a response that changed the subject to another Chicago team, ditties like this: 'How about those Bulls!!!'" It "appears Briggs deleted the tweets." A source said that the team, "trying since Monday, has not been able to reach Briggs for an explanation" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/30). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley cited the comments ESPN's Chris Broussard made about Collins coming out, and wrote what is "hard to understand is what possible relevance Broussard thought his own beliefs had to do with this issue and why he had to share them with a national television audience." He is "not paid to give witness to his Christian beliefs." He is "paid to give witness to whether or not the Lakers want Dwight Howard back" (JSONLINE.com, 4/30).

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: In Chicago, Ellen Jean Hirst notes a "hall of fame for gay athletes and allies launched in Chicago." The nonprofit National Gay & Lesbian Sports HOF will "accept nominees beginning this summer." Nominees can be "from any sporting level, from youth leagues to professional sports" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/1).
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