Unless you've been completely offline, Sports Illustrated broke the news that NBA center Jason Collins is making history as the first openly gay male athlete in professional U.S. sports.
Since then, social media has exploded with supportive messages. NBA Commissioner David Stern offered his support by stating, "We are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue." Behind him were Collins' teammates, other NBA players, a multitude of celebrities from Spike Lee to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Chelsea Clinton—among others in a show of their complete support.
I'm not surprised. In truth, this was a moment that has been anticipated for some time—not specifically from Collins or the NBA, but the "coming out" of an active player in professional sports.
The coverage of gay athletes coming out in professional sports in the media has been happening for years—albeit very, very slowly. Martina Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon singles champion, was famously outed in a New York Daily News article in 1981. That article caused sponsors to cancel their contracts and since she was born in Czechoslovakia, Navratilova worried that it might undercut her chances of permanent American citizenship. In contrast, Brittney Griner, the newest member of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, came out a couple of weeks ago. These are just two highly-publicized instances of pro athletes coming out over the past few years. Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, Fallon Fox (mixed martial artist and UFC-hopeful) and Liz Carmouche (UFC athlete) are also among them.
Despite this trend, none of these athletes have received the fervor that Collins' story has. Why? Collins is a man, while these openly gay athletes are women. Keep reading...
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