Washington Wizards center Jason Collins came out as the first active openly gay player in American team sports Monday in an article in Sports Illustrated, a landmark moment in the gay rights movement and for acceptance in American culture.
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.
Collins is a 12-year pro who has bounced around the league but has always been a model of professionalism and grit. He never cared about stats and was more likely to foul than score. He led the league in personal fouls and was often the guy teams sent in to foul hard and set screens. It was not a glamorous role. But as Collins writes, he did not care.
In his 12-year career, Collins has gone to the Playoffs nine times, including a turn as the "Dwight stopper" in the 2011 Playoffs. OK, so maybe Howard still averaged 27.0 points per game and 15.5 rebounds per game. However, Atlanta's willingness to defend Howard one on one using Collins stymied Orlando's outside shooting in Atlanta's six-game series win.
Collins should be remembered for that kind of grit and determination. In a perfect world, he would.
However this will become what Jason Collins is remembered for. Because what he did was truly monumental for an entire community of people.
I am not going to be able to express what this means, so let me just provide a sampling of the reaction:
Congratulations to Jason – society couldn't hope for a more eloquent & positive role model: buff.ly/10OvOMd
— John Amaechi OBE (@JohnAmaechi) April 29, 2013
— Baron Davis (@Baron_Davis) April 29, 2013
There are plenty more across the Internet. Most of what I have seen is positive, and I am going to ignore whatever negative comments may be out there.
If you have made it this far down and need another link to the article, check it out here. Congratulations, Jason Collins.