SBD/May 1, 2013/Sports in Society

NBA's Apparent Acceptance Of Collins Indicates Progress On Homosexuality Issue

James said Collins' announcement was a strong thing to do
If the NBA’s reaction over the past two days to Wizards C Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay “is any indication, the league is further along in its progression of acceptance than perhaps observers gave it credit for,” according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Maybe the time was “perfect for Collins to come out because while a sizeable portion of players likely don’t agree with his lifestyle, they are mature enough to respect that he has a right to that decision” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/1). In Philadelphia, John Mitchell notes “most of the response from athletes hasn't been of the testosterone-laced homophobic nature some predicted” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/1). In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick writes it was “important for some Heat players to say something" about Collins' announcement, as silence "might have spoken louder.” Heat F LeBron James "did not tweet Monday” about the news, but yesterday he said, “It was a strong thing to do. I think it’s very cool, man. None of us should go around wondering about what other people [think] we should be as human beings. I think it’s very strong of him” (PALM BEACH POST, 5/1). Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "The NBA is a fraternity. It's good to see players in that fraternity support him. The world is changing, and it's not a bad thing." Heat F Shane Battier: "I can't imagine how difficult that decision was. He knows the consequences, but I'm proud of him. He's an upstanding guy" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 5/1). Heat F Chris Andersen: “He’s going to have a tough road, but you know what, I think he’s in the right part of a state of mind that he’s going to be … a tough leader” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/1).

NOTHING BUT LOVE: In N.Y., Peter May writes a “thoughtful, reflective tone prevailed” among Celtics players when asked about their former teammate, who was “well-liked" when he was on the squad earlier this season. Celtics F Paul Pierce: “I was definitely surprised. I had no idea. We don’t know what people do with their off-time. ... What he did is a great thing -- to open the door for a number of athletes who are going to have the courage to come out.” Knicks F Kenyon Martin said, “Takes a brave man. I commend him for having the courage to do it.” Knicks G Jason Kidd: “It’s just going to make the world a better place at the end of the day.” Kidd said of Collins being picked up by a team after he becomes a free agent July 1, “I wouldn’t see why not. He’s a guy that can help and he’s a veteran guy. In this league, you need veteran guys” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/1). The AP’s Howard Ulman noted none of the Celtics “expressed concern Tuesday about having been on the same team as a gay player,” but they did “care about what he did to help Boston win games and about how he might help other gay athletes” (AP, 4/30). Former Nets Owner Lewis Katz, whose team drafted Collins out of Stanford in ’01, said, “He's just a terrific kid. ... If you'd gone down our roster at the time, there wasn't a better adjusted human being than Jason Collins. And that wasn't the standard of the day in the NBA” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/1).

TENNIS, ANYONE? USA TODAY’s Douglas Robson notes tennis, which has a “history of prominent out athletes such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo,” has been “conspicuously without an openly gay male player in the Open era, active or retired.” Tennis might not be a “bastion of tolerance, but it would appear to contain the framework for gay athletes, male or female, to compete with greater ease.” Tennis players are “independent contractors that control their own destiny,” so GMs or coaches “cannot thwart or threaten playing time.” Some observers have “wondered if a global sport like tennis might actually be less tolerant due to the complicated matrix of nationalities, languages and religions.” But the “climate for gay athletes is warming.” Tennis player Mardy Fish and retired player Andy Roddick after hearing about Collins’ announcement “became the first two male tennis players to join Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to ending homophobia in sports” (USATODAY.com, 5/1).

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE: NASCAR driver Carl Edwards said if a driver came out as gay, it would not “be that big of an issue.” Edwards: “If you can go out there and drive a race car and you can do it well, you’re a respected race car driver and that’s it in NASCAR.” The circuit this year has already suspended Jeremy Clements for making a racially insensitive comment, and ESPN’s Brad Daugherty asked, “Where do we provide the learning opportunity for the people who do have the intolerance and the ignorance and don’t quite understand? ... There are a lot issues that go along with this that we can’t talk about because of political correctness” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 5/1).

DOUBTS ON WHETHER NFL IS READY
: Former NFLer and NBC’s Hines Ward said he did not believe the NFL was "ready" for a gay player, as there are "too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/30). But ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi asked, “If not now, when? There’s always going to be ignorance, there’s always going to be immaturity in an NFL locker room.” ESPN’s Wendi Nix: “It’s a microcosm of society as a whole” (“NFL 32,” ESPN2, 4/30). Meanwhile, Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson said, "I give kudos to him, but I still think it's unfortunate (the story) is getting as much attention as it is. I think in today's society, we're getting to a point where it's more and more accepted throughout the whole world” (OTTAWA SUN, 5/1). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes, “Do not for a second believe that the uniform message of approval flooding in about Collins being the first openly gay active player in a major American team sport is the same sort of message being espoused in locker rooms around American sports. … Politically correct pro athletes may say one thing for public consumption and something entirely different when they are behind the closed doors of their rude, crude, testosterone-charged locker rooms” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/1).
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