Tuesday, April 30, 2013

There's No Such Thing as a Gay Athlete

Soooooo, Jason Collins decided to tell the world that he's a black, gay, basketball player.  If you are connected to anything electronic, by now you know that Collins, a 7-foot center who has played in the NBA for 12 years, is the first athlete in a major American sport to admit that he is gay.
First and foremost, I commend Jason for having the courage to admit to the world that he is gay.  I understand how hard it must be for one to place their personal life under scrutiny to raise the collective consciousness of the country.  My heart also goes out to his family, who now has to deal with the media firestorm (good and bad) that comes with such a monumental announcement.
BUT, and you had to know a but was coming, I'm quite confused about why this is such a big deal.  Last month, when soccer player Robbie Rogers admitted that he was gay, no one batted an eye.  When Brittney Griner, former Baylor basketball superstar and soon-to-be number one draft pick in the WNBA admitted that she was gay, the sports world let out a collective yawn.
So why, oh why, is Jason's announcement the creme de la creme of coming out parties?  Now, I'm not being naive here.  I understand that he is the first person from the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB that has admitted he's gay.  My question is, with all of the progress made in the gay community, is this really a benchmark that has any real significance?  Work with me here to see my point.
I mean it makes sense that other athletes would respond.  The Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, two basketball heavyweights, sent out supportive tweets.  Similarly, it makes sense that David
Stern, the NBA Commissioner, would make his sentiments known.  Okay, alright, Spike Lee decided to jump on board and give props to Jason.  But I mean c'mon, Bill Clinton is chiming in on the announcement?  I mean, who's next, President Obama?  I just know he'll never get involved.  Now where's the sarcasm font when you need it?

Jason's decision is touted as "tearing down the final barrier," and it is being compared to Jackie Robinson's barrier-breaking entry into Major League Baseball.  Well I don't know about that.  But what I do know is that Jason is rumored to get a fat new contract after this season (he'll be a free agent) and there is even talk that he'll be on a Wheaties box and get endorsements simply because he came out as a "gay athlete."

So I now arrive at the point of my rambling:  Why this decision to come out?  Why right now?  Why this player?  I mean, Jason Collins is not even that skilled as a NBA player.  Now he is a smart 7-footer but come on, he's an archaic 34 years old,  he averages 3.6 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game over
12 seasons.  To put that in perspective, Laker Center Dwight Howard averages 18.3 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game.  I mean, I've only heard of him because he is currently on the Washington Wizard's roster.  So does this really advance the cause?

Sadly, I don't think it does that much.  Last I checked, many states are overturning bans on gay marriage left and right.  It's perfectly acceptable in many schools and clubs to be gay and proud.  Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, will soon be resolved by the Supreme Court and will more than likely be overturned. And oh yeah, gays can play major professional sports without discrimination from employers.  So the country is already having this discussion and gay rights are already advancing.  I fear there has to be another motive for Jason to wave the rainbow flag for the world to see (see above where I talk about possible endorsements he'll get).

I just don't think Jason's announcement is that big a deal.  Though Jason's announcement places gay rights at the forefront of our ADHD nation for now, how much is this discussion actually going to change?  Will large numbers of athletes in the majors come out?  Not a chance.  Will anti-gay teammates see the light?  Nope.
Will this lead to an noticeable increase in the viewership of professional sports?  Don't think so. Will gay players play better because they cleared their consciences?  Well maybe, but you get the point.

I believe that the media dangled low hanging fruit for someone to grab and finally admit that they are gay.  Of course it's a ratings bonanza.  I mean this thing has been bubbling up for months - it was just a matter of time before someone took the bait and became the spokesperson for the "I'm a gay athlete" movement.  My real issue with this is that there is no such thing as a "gay athlete."  Just like there are no black athletes, no white athletes, no Christian athletes and no Muslim athletes.  There are only athletes.  And these athletes want to play their sport at the highest level and they want to win.  It's all about winning.  I'm not quite sure Jason Collins understands that.

1.  How much does Jason's announcement advance gay rights?

2.  How important is it that we now have an openly gay player in a major American sport?

3.  Is Jason the best representative for this movement?

blog comments powered by Disqus