One Giant Leap: First Openly Gay Athlete in Major Sports
By Brady Stark
Prior to February 2014, no openly gay athlete had played on a major sports team in basketball, hockey, football, or baseball. Jason Collins has finally broken that barrier. The Brooklyn Nets signed the 35 year old center to a 10-day contract in order to fill a need that was vacant due to injuries. The coach of the nets, Jason Kidd, was a former teammate of Collins when they played together in New Jersey. A lot of people may not have heard of Jason Collins before now, and that is because he is a more defensive-minded player. Instead of putting up points that other centers might be used to, Collins’ value is on the defence side of the ball. In the first game that Collins played in his comeback, he did not post a single point, but in the 11 minutes that he was on the court, the Nets outscored the Los Angeles Lakers by a margin of eight points. The margin is significant due to the final score being 108-102. Since the first signing that was done in February, Collins has signed another 10-day contract to stay with the team and is poised to spend the rest of the season there.
This moment in sports is not about the 7-foot-tall center for the Nets but the road that is now open for gay athletes that are in a situation that Collins was in for the majority of his career. There are athletes, major stars, that are too afraid to tell the world who they really are because of fear. Fear that the world will judge them based on their personal preference and not what they do on the court, field, or ice. The path towards a more tolerant future will not be a smooth one, as there has been a few players in different leagues that have come out and announced that they would not be comfortable with a gay teammate, but there are so many more players that would not care about one’s personal business, just about how hard you try every down, inning, shift, or whistle. Collins’ bravery shines a guiding light for those future players such as NCAA football prospect Michael Sam, who came out last year to his University of Missouri teammates and had a season that would see him become All-American and Southeastern Conference Defensive player of the year. Sam is slated to go between the third and fifth round of the NFL Entry draft this year and be the first openly gay NFL player.
There have been a few teams and players that have stated that they might not want Sam on their team because of who he is or the distraction that might come with drafting such a high-profile player. New York Giants’ general manager, on the other hand, has publically stated that if things line-up, he and his whole organization would be proud to have such a great defensive end on their team. Obviously, sports is a long way from being equal or void of prejudice, but the first stones have been cast. This reporter hopes that one day, this type of article will never have to be written because sexual orientation will no longer be an issue. Until that day comes, we as sports fans can marvel at the stars we love to watch and the brave athletes that are not afraid to show their true colours.