Let’s talk about Jason Collins, shall we?
For the record, I am not here to advocate or oppose homosexuality (although, if you’re asking, I say love/date/etc whomever you want – if you want the gray hair and wrinkles that come with a relationship, who am I to stop you? ). I simply want to talk about homosexuality in sport.
Don’t worry, I am prepared for people to yell at me about this. Please, let me know how I do addressing a sensitive topic.
Everyone is saying Jason Collin is the first openly gay athlete in American professional sports which is a big deal because being gay in America is a big deal (apparently…). If you’re new to this, check out a story here.
I want to be clear that he’s not the first openly gay athlete. There are several gay female athletes (although no one seems to care about them – I won’t get into my feminist rant right now, though) and word on the street is that baseballer Glenn Burke, of the LA Dodgers, was out to his teammates when he played in the 70s. I’m not sure if you can count that since no one, especially the media, didn’t know and therefore wasn’t really ‘openly’ gay…
The reason that this is a”big deal” is because of the perception of gay people (I’m not saying it’s right – I’m saying that’s what the perception is). Gay women are seen as more masculine, so when a female athlete is gay, people think, “Oh, well, that makes sense,” because she is already doing something ‘masculine’: playing sport. The flip side of this is that gay men are seen as more feminine and since athlete’s are supposed to be hyper-masculine, being gay is contradictory to their image. Unfair, isn’t it?
That’s why people thought it would be a long time before there was an openly gay athlete in the big three leagues (because, really? Who watches soccer?). But then along came Jason Collins and BANG. Ideas shattered.
I have a few thoughts on this…
I was very proud of the NBA, and David Stern (I love/want to be him), in the way they handled this. For that matter, I’m proud of the US in general. In a recent Twitter chat (#sbchat, on Mondays for those of us in Aus – check it out) we discussed whether the US was “ready” for an openly gay athlete. Now, it’s pretty obvious they are. When the news broke, at first I thought, “Okay. He’s gay. How funny that we were just talking about that on #sbchat…” But then I thought, “WAIT. What are people going to say?” It’s not that I wanted them to say anything, I just assumed they would. But they didn’t. Everyone was… nice. And I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud to be a sports fan.
However, I have to wonder if it would have been different with a bigger name. Yes, people know Jason Collins and I don’t mean to discount his courage but would the reaction had been different if it would have been a Jeter, a Manning, or a Howard (no, I am not implying that any of them are gay, I am just saying that they’re big names)? I wonder if people would have been more or less accepting. It’s “easy” to accept someone who hasn’t been in the spotlight that much, but it will be interesting to see how people handle it when it’s someone iconic.
For instance, the other day I was writing a post about women who should be WAGs and trying to pair them up with AFL players I thought might be good for them (hypothetically, of course). I realised that Buddy Franklin (for the Americans who read my blog – HI MOM! – Buddy is one of the best players in the AFL… although he’s killing my dream team right now, so I might debate that point). He’s iconic. When I Googled whether he had a girlfriend, a thread came up that discussed that he was gay. I cannot tell you how many comments I read that were ADAMANT that he was not. People could not even fathom the notion that their Buddy could be gay (there were also comments of support an indifference, but the anti-gay comments were prevalent and the most passionate). Alas, no one knows if he is and frankly (ha ha, name joke!) it’s none of our business. But I was surprised at how many people seemed downright angry at the assertion that he was gay.
But back to business, I am excited to see how this all plays out. Collins and the NBA have a unique opportunity here to support gay rights and be role models for other gay athletes (or even gay youth – they need some love). While I can’t stand insincere displays for publicity, I would love to see some action on the part of Collins and the NBA.
That’s all… how did I do?