Homosexuality and sports have been two topics that have remained on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Whether it is basketball and the NBA, football and the NFL, hockey and the NHL or golf and the PGA, the wide world of sports has put forth a lot of effort to tip-toe around and sidestep the idea of homosexuality. For as long as sports have existed, the association between manliness and the game has been made. No one ever thought, or they didn’t want to think, that a gay man could play sports.
As civil rights for homosexuals really begin to take hold in our society and world, it has also begun to gain ground in the professional sports realm all thanks to the courageousness and bravery of one man: Jason Collins. Coming out last year as the NBA’s first openly gay player, Collins opened the door for athletes hiding their homosexuality. Knowingly risking his professional career, the center did something that many feared and others applaud. I, for one, applauded Collins. If not for him, how long would it have taken for professional sports to become comfortable with homosexuality or to simply address it?
Honestly, if it had not been for Collins, professional sports may have been one of the last platforms to accept homosexuality. Just look at the NFL and its bullying controversy with the Miami Dolphins. The type of inappropriate language and behavior that was used, mostly derogatory toward homosexuals, has no place in this day and age. Little does the public know that behavior like this exists in locker rooms across the country at every level. While others would wallow in the sad truth, Collins decided to do something about it.
However, for Collins, the announcement came with a penalty. Since coming out, Collins has yet to play in an NBA game and has struggled to find a team willing to sign him. New commissioner Adam Silver pointed at Collins’ age as the problem, not his sexuality, but how truthful is that statement? Imagine the amount of media attention a team would receive for signing Collins. Imagine the pros and cons associated with being the first team to sign an openly gay player. That is a lot for one franchise to swallow.
Finally, after a long wait, Collins has found a team willing to take the next step. The Brooklyn Nets signed Collins to a 10-day contract, making him the first official, openly gay player in the league. It’s a huge step not only for the gay community, but a massive step for mankind as a species. In many different ways, sports bring the world together. From the FIFA World Cup to the Olympics, sports has a way at bringing peace to the masses. In my opinion, Collins picked a great way to announce his sexuality. Not only was it a personal triumph for himself, but he also became an ambassador for homosexuality.
For Collins and homosexuality, the battle has only begun. Like so many civil rights movements before it, the gay rights movement will also take time and persistence. As for the NBA, Silver should embrace this moment. As the new commissioner, he needs that first big moment in his career, and this is it; but it also shouldn’t be taken lightly. Both Collins and the NBA have wandered into something bigger than 32 teams, bigger than the league and bigger than the billions of dollars associated with it all. They have a chance to change the world and change the way society thinks. And I think that the NBA is the right league to do this and the right sports body to dive head first into this movement. The next ten days will be nerve-racking, exciting, tense but most importantly historic. Whether or not Collins plays basketball past his 10-day contract is unknown, but he will always be remembered for the difference he made for homosexual population and the universe.
Shane Phillips is an NBA Writer for RantSports.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneRantNBA, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also email Shane at ShaneRantNBA@gmail.com.