For the very first time a professional athlete who competes in one of the four major North American sports has come out as gay. Jason Collins, a journeyman center in the NBA who finished the season with the Washington Wizards, wrote an article for the May 6th edition of Sports Illustrated where he introduces himself to readers by saying the following:
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
Collins isn't the first active athlete to come out as gay, as I mentioned in the article I wrote about a month ago, but he is the first male athlete that competes in one of the four major sports to do so. Naturally this kind of news has made a big impact throughout the world of professional sports and that includes the New York Rangers and their locker room.
Andrew Gross asked a few of the New York Rangers how they felt about Collins' article and his announcement.
Henrik Lundqvist shared his thoughts on the subject with Gross:
"When that came out two weeks ago, the You Can Play campaign, you just hope that everybody can be comfortable and be who you want to be and don't feel pressured," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "I think the more you talk about it and the more people who know about it, I think more and more people are going to be comfortable coming out and be who they are. I think that's important that you get the respect from everybody. It doesn't matter who you are and what you stand for, it's important that, especially, here in this sport, we want to show that we respect everybody."
"He's the first, right? While he's playing?" Marc Staal asked. "That's great that he has the comfort level to do that and be around an atmosphere that will accept it and go from there. So that's great."
Added Steve Eminger: "It's a personal choice. It's who he is as a person. You're not going to judge anyone on their sexuality. He plays basketball and that's all you should be worried about. What he does on the court and in the locker room is the only thing that's important."
The NHL and NHLPA have been among the frontrunners in the world of professional sports in promoting acceptance of homosexual athletes in professional sports as they demonstrated by partnering with the You Can Play Project. In my opinion it is immensely encouraging and promising to see the overwhelming tide of positive reaction and feedback from professional athletes and fans regarding Jason Collins' article. I can only hope that other athletes will be inspired by Jason and feel comfortable enough to truly embrace who they are and follow in his footsteps.
To say that April 29th was a big day in sports might be an understatement. The reaction to Collins' article has hopefully shown professional athletes that the vast majority of sports fans are ready for more than just tolerance. They are ready for acceptance.
I know that to some of you this is a non-issue and it is something that you find inappropriate to be discussed here on Blueshirt Banter. For some of you it would be better if we never saw into the personal lives of professional athletes or learned about who they really are. I understand that point of view, I really and truly do. However, I believe that the personal lives of athletes (for better or for worse) are already exposed to us and are readily accessible to fans because of the omnipresence of media and social networks. So long as we follow sports we will be informed and exposed to the personal lives of professional athletes and we will hear about everything from steroid scandals to philanthropy. So when something overwhelmingly positive like this comes along I can't help but embrace it and be moved by it because I know what it means to people I care very much about.
So why should you care whether or not Jason Collins or other professional athletes are gay? Perhaps you should care because there are children and adults in the world who are afraid to share who they are with the people in their lives because they are scared of rejection, ridicule, or even being the target of violence. Perhaps you should care because no one should be ashamed of who they are. That is why this matters. That is why you should care.
If the courage Collins displayed by writing his article makes just one young person, regardless of their race, sexuality, or creed, feel that they are not alone and that they shouldn't be ashamed of who and what they are than it is worth whatever inconvenience or ruffled feathers it may have caused anyone.
Thank you, Jason Collins. To read his article please click here.
What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments section. LGR.