Brennan: Just call Jason Collins a team player
by Christine Brennan, USA TODAY Sports
History was made this morning when the first active male athlete in a major U.S. team sport announced that he is gay. He’s Washington Wizards center Jason Collins. He stands 7 feet tall, weighs 255 pounds, has started almost 500 NBA games and is known as a durable, strong, physical, team-oriented big man.
So much for stereotypes. Whatever any of us pictured when we thought of or heard the words “gay man,” we now have received a wonderful view of who that man actually is. Through Collins, we also have been given an enlightened and intelligent view about so many of our fellow citizens, neighbors, friends and role models.
If a tough, 7-foot NBA veteran can be gay, can’t just about any athlete be gay? Oh, and anybody got a problem with that?
It’s not just sports history that took place when Collins told Sports Illustrated his gripping, classy and courageous story. It’s U.S. history. Just as Jackie Robinson played such an important role in American desegregation, and Billie Jean King in the advancement of women’s rights, so too will Collins with the march to equal rights for gay Americans, and those around the world as well.
This news is that big of a deal. Coming from the macho, industrial-strength world of men’s professional sports, it’s nothing short of a watershed moment in the sweep of American history. If we listen to all the sports radio shock jocks and nameless, faceless screamers in the rafters and the old-time assistant coaches asking antiquated and illegal questions at the scouting combine, big, strapping NBA and NFL guys aren’t supposed to be gay.
Women’s sports? Sure. We can never discount the strength of Martina Navratilova, Sheryl Swoopes, Brittney Griner and so many others, but their news doesn’t really shock us. Artistic men’s sports? Of course. Greg Louganis and Rudy Galindo are heroes a hundred times over, but again, we are hardly surprised.
But big, tough Jason Collins? Really?
That’s exactly what makes this news so important.
“On the court I graciously accept one label sometimes bestowed on me: ‘the pro’s pro,’ ” Collins told SI. “I … [For more on Brennan: Just call Jason Collins a team player, click here.]