This is just a quick note regarding the brave move on the part of Washington Wizards center Jason Collins. It is a move that more progressive sports fans, especially in North America have been crying out for; unbelievably, Collins is the first professional athlete in the USA to come out as a homosexual. That in itself is a shocking fact and alludes to the importance of the move in itself.
I should say now that the title of this post is an allusion to the excellent documentary on the life of Jack Johnson, the first African-American Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World ‘Unforgiveable Blackness’. This post is more of an initial reaction to the news that has set the already busy back pages in America alight. I want to think on the subject more before expanding on my points and drawing any significant comparisons; but what is clear is that Collins’ move could be that seismic moment for the LGBT community that Johnson’s was for African Americans.
Where Johnson’s controversial career was played out in the newspapers, naturally enough, Collins’ is playing out on twitter, and one of the reactions to the news is scepticism about the importance of the move with a belief that he Collins is trying to make a name for himself. But staying on twitter is where you see how important it is, starting with Miami Dolphins wide receiver, Mike Wallace’s tweet “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH…” That almost immediate reaction to Collins’ disclosure just goes to show the historic atmosphere to homosexuality in a US locker-room, a place which, as was neatly pointed out on Dave Dameshek’s podcast, is a microcosm of societal attitudes – not in the sense of homophobia being rife in the NFL (which I don’t believe necessarily), but in the sense of there being something of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach whereby homosexuality is viewed as strange and even threatening. Even Collins coming out alone does a lot to demystify, but if it encourages others, it will do even more and make being gay something of a normality; and hopefully, having suspicious Americans watch homosexual players just ‘playing ball’ like everyone else will do a lot to help the issue of equality in wider society.
To further show why this is important, I direct you to some of the most ignorant, ugly opinions I have ever seen:
I’m sorry but if you support Jason Collins then you are a faggot because that is straight up weird.
— NoahBlazek (@noahblazek) April 30, 2013
You’re a faggot if ya ever let Jason Collins slap your ass after you score
— SWOOP. (@KillAllSimps) April 30, 2013
my step dad just said “only thing worse than a faggot is a black faggot” talking about Jason Collins lol … smh
— Dr. Zeigler (@RealJeffZeigler) April 30, 2013
Bruh if Jason collins wanna stick basketball’s up his asshole that is his business but this is my twitter &I think he’s an annoying faggot
— RJohnny Cash (@PrinceAreJayII) April 30, 2013
Any nigga that care about Jason Collins is a faggot. I get pussy in Real life. I could care less what that wizard do wit his life.
— ACY™ (@MyNameACY) April 30, 2013
You a faggot if Jason Collins ever played for ya favorite team
— 2013 CHAMPS (@RihannaHasAids) April 30, 2013
Between reactionary racism, strange but upsettingly not unexpected accusations of kinky sexual practices, and accusations of homosexuality by degree if you support Collins in his move, or even if he ever played for your favourite team, that is a difficult read. Luckily we can take heart that he has indeed also garnered support from what seems to be the majority, including sports writers and sports professionals of every level (who were quick to distance themselves from Wallace’s comments). While the NBA is a big deal, the NFL is biggest sporting behemoth in America, and there is already speculation that it will be sooner rather than later before an NFL player follows suit and accelerates the locker-room liberation for homosexuals in sport. Especially at a time where gay rights are seemingly at the forefront of Western discussion, with Scotland, France, and several states in America legalising same-sex marriage, there appears to be an irresistible (at least where reason prevails) march of progressivism, and Collins breaking traditionally held barriers in sports could be yet more of a catalyst for change. That is the importance of Collins’, and that is why he is a true champion to get behind.