Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Mayo: Bravo Jason Collins, but when will gay be passe?

If Jason Collins were an actor, writer or a politician, his sexual orientation wouldn't be a big story. But the headlines and discussion generated by Collins' decision to come out as gay as an active NBA player shows you how far sports has to go to catch up with the rest of society.

It's kind of sad. When it came to racial integration and the march toward civil rights for blacks, team sports helped lead the way.

But when it comes to issues involving sexual orientation, sports has lagged behind, with gay athletes in team sports feeling safer, and more comfortable, in the closet.

(And by the way, the correct term is sexual orientation, not "lifestyle choice," as some in the sports world -- including journalists -- have incorrectly phrased it.)

Judging by some of the reactions to Collins' announcement, like the Dolphins Mike Wallace's (see Dave Hyde's column), it's no wonder why so many athletes prefer staying in the closet.

There have been out tennis players, golfers and divers. Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis have shown that you can be the best in your sport, no matter one's sexuality.

But in team sports, there's been more fear in coming out, especially against the macho yet insecure ethos of the lockerroom and communal showers. Pro athletes have long known that gay teammates exist. Some straight athletes just didn't want to know for sure exactly which ones, because it makes them uncomfortable. (Here's the thing I don't get: If you shower with a group of men, and you're bothered that a gay man might be in the same room, maybe you shouldn't be showering with a group of men.)

Collins has handled himself with dignity, and he's to be commended for being open and honest about who he is. He's a journeyman free agent near the end of his career, so if he doesn't get signed this summer, he might not get the chance to actually play any NBA games as an openly gay player.

Here's hoping we see the day when gay athletes can be out when they start their careers. And when it's so utterly passe and irrelevant that it's not considered news.

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
Comments
Loading