Coming out of NBA’s closet

Jason Collins, an NBA free agent, is now commonly known as the gay athlete. He is the first professional male athlete still involved in his sport to publicly announce that he is gay, marking a significant event in sports history. With the world already in a heated debate over gay rights, Collins came out of the closet right on cue. “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins said.

Collins initially admitted his sexuality on April 29 in an interview with Sports Illustrated, where he was featured on the cover. “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.” Collins said. The free agent’s courageous step forward may pave the way for other gay professional athletes. He is a trailblazer. In this generartion, being gay is something people are becoming more comfortable.

The public announcement sparked a worldwide multi-media frenzy. Collins was widely accepted in the sports world as he received numerous positive responses from renowned athletes such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Along with these athletes, NBA Commissioner David Stern also showed his support in an interview. “Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,” Stern said. However, Collins’s announcement was no surprise to former NBA player Charles Barkley, as he claimed almost every athlete played on a team with a gay athlete.

In the gay culture, this event was something to celebrate, as a member of the NBA brought sports and  homosexuality one step closer together. However, for others, including an anti-gay ESPN analyst, Chris Broussard, it raised the issue of Collins’ Christian beliefs. “Personally I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin,” Broussard said. Collins’ homosexuality brings to light many concerns in the locker room and sports in general. Would a team want to be around a gay athlete in the locker room? Some players’ discomfort with gay athletes may become a major problem for all of sports managements.

The debate on gay rights continues, but Collins’ admittance brings a double effect: strengthening support for gay rights, while on the other hand, raising major concerns for sports teams. Following suit, many other athletes may come out of the closet, and it will be no surprise, thanks to this gay athlete.