Jason Collins, an openly gay basketball player, has signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets. With the move, Collins becomes the first openly-gay player in NBA history and the first openly-gay active player in any of the four major sports.
This news comes over a week after the Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam announced that he was gay. Sam is on track to become the first openly-gay player in NFL history. These two players are making sports history without trying and that’s how it should be. The truth is that this shouldn’t be a story, but the culture of sports right now has made it one.
In this day and age, gay rights is the next civil rights movement. Not to say that the civil rights movement from the 1960’s and 1970’s by African-Americans in the United States is even over because it’s not; this country still has a long way to go. The same can be said of gay rights, especially in pro sports.
While America as a whole has become more willing to support gay marriage and other legislation, there will still always be people that look down on anyone that’s different than them. In sports, the controversy exists largely in part because of the locker room setting. This is not only asinine, but it’s actually pretty insulting as well.
Basically, it’s insinuated that because a gay man is in a locker room with other men who may be showering and changing, that they will be attracted to them. This suggestion couldn’t be more fundamentally faulty. It is basically profiling all homosexuals as predators.
As Sam, Collins and other eventual openly-gay players in professional sports pave the way for true equality, sports are still going to struggle with their inherent inequality. It’s ironic how players can kill dogs, hit a man with their car while driving drunk, sexually assault a woman, or be connected with a murder and locker rooms will welcome them back with open arms. However, when someone has the courage to speak about their sexuality, and in Sam’s case knowing it will hurt their draft stock, it’s a “locker room controversy.”
How the NFL and NBA respectively handle these situations could go a long way in determining how much progress sports as a whole make towards equality for all athletes. Either Sam and Collins will prove how sad the state of affairs are right now in the NFL and NBA, or they will show how far sports and the country has come in recent years.
Either way, it’s time for the sporting world to show their true colors.