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Just stop it, okay?
Cut it out.
Jason Collins is no Jackie Robinson, period and end of story.
Well, it should be the end of the story anyway, but thanks to those who get paid to say outlandish things, and especially those looking for the lazy way out of a controversial subject, the story will continue.
Collins started the discussion this week, as was his goal, of openly gay athletes in professional sports by coming out in this week’s Sports Illustrated, and doing a series of interviews discussing his private life.
Good for him. I’ve got no problem with the conversation, or with Collins’ personal choices on what to keep private and what to bring to the public.
To compare him to Jackie Robinson, however, is beyond insulting to the Robison’s legacy.
As “courageous” as Collins’ decision to come out may be, depending on your definition of the word, it cannot even begin to compare to what Robinson had to endure when breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
To begin with, there has never been a ban on gay athletes playing in the NBA. No such ban, whether official or unofficial, has ever been in place in the NFL, NHL, or in MLB either. Homosexual athletes have been free to play for any team that offered them a contract, and whether they kept their sexuality to themselves or not has been a personal choice. Until now, every one of them that has chosen to announce their gender preference has waited until retirement to do so.
African-American baseball players, however, were specifically confined to the Negro Leagues before Robinson began one of the most important journeys any professional athlete had ever undertaken. Unlike Collins and other gay athletes, Robinson couldn’t choose whether or not his teammates, opponents, and fans knew he was “different” from them.
He wore those differences on his skin every day of his life.
That skin color, of course, made him a target for bigotry, hatred, and even violence when he broke through the barrier separating black ballplayers from white ones in this nation’s oppressive pre-civil rights era.
Robinson’s willingness to endure unimaginable vitriol in order to pursue his dreams, and to pave the way for others like him, was more than courageous. It was heroic.
The segregation of blacks from whites in America in the 1940’s completely dwarfs any gulf that exists between heterosexuals and homosexuals in 2013. While today’s bigots may be unaccepting of homosexuals because they are, as Collins puts it, “different” from other people, the bigots and racists in 1947 were far worse. They saw Jackie Robinson, and every person of color, as less than human.
To those embarrassments to the human race, some 80 years after the abolition of slavery, African-Americans were still no better than animals.
Robinson signed on with Brooklyn at the age of 28, and proceeded to play 10 seasons for the Dodgers. In other words, he knew that when he crossed that line for the first time, he had many years of baseball in front of him. Years of criticism and hatred. Years of ugliness that we can’t begin to imagine.
By contrast, Collins has come out as a 34-year-old big man at the end of his career. He has done so at a time of perhaps the greatest acceptance of homosexuality in American history.
Numerous states have enacted laws legalizing gay marriage, a movement for which many politicians at all levels have expressed personal support, and national polls show more favorable attitudes toward the LGBT community than ever before.
All of this means that, despite whatever challenges Collins will face, there has never been an easier time for an active player to take such a big public step.
Does that mean Collins won’t hear snickers and sneers from some segments of the population? Of course not. There will always be those who don’t agree with his lifestyle and those who simply enjoy politically incorrect jokes at someone else’s expense. But those dissenting views will be few and far between, given the public castigation of those who have already dared offer them in the past few days, including Dolphins’ receiver Mike Wallace and ESPN commentator Chris Broussard.
The timing of Collins’ announcement is also curious, given his status as an aging, unproductive free agent.
He played in just 38 games for the Wizards last year, averaging 1 point and 1 rebound per game. In truth, he may have already played his last game, which almost removes the title of “First Openly Gay Active Player in Major American Team Sport” bestowed upon him this week.
What if there is no NBA team interested in signing him, purely for basketball reasons? Will league GM’s be given the benefit of the doubt, or will there be whispers (and by whispers, I mean shouts) alleging bias against him for his homosexuality?
The answer has been given before the question is even asked:
“I fully expect — and quite frankly I demand — David Stern to use his power to ensure that Jason Collins has a job in the NBA for 82 games next season. This is a chance for basketball to be as important as baseball in 1947.” — Syndicated columnist Jason Whitlock
Sorry, Mr. Whitlock. Jason Collins is, and should be, proud of who he is. He should be commended for standing up and showing young people like him that it’s okay to be who they are, as well. But make no mistake about it: Nothing Collins has done in 2013 will ever make this moment as significant as 1947.
From the looks of him...I'd say it's happened more than once.
The Jason Collins announcement has been a celebration of tolerance.
Unless you have a dissenting opinion, such as that offered by ESPN's Chris Broussard.
His opinion, and expression of religious beliefs, will not be tolerated at all.
Yes...she's a MIDDLE school student.
"I'm not a bum. I'm a human being."