Jason Collins becomes 1st openly-gay athlete in major American sports

Jason Collins, of the Washington Wizards NBA team, just came out as gay.

Just as interesting, he’s African-American (and yes, that’s important too).

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether any men were ever going to come out in professional American sports, at least for the major leagues: basketball (NBA); football (NFL); hockey (NHL), or major league baseball (MLB).

And it’s finally happened with Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards, who comes out in a piece in Sports Illustrated.

Jason Collins comes out

It’s nice to see a lot of public support today for Collins, from members of Congress, fellow basketball players like Kobe Bryant (though not all), and even the White House.  Though some others at ESPN, and the Miami Dolphins, were less than pleased.

There’s really been a groundswell of pro-gay support of late in professional American sports, especially football.  NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe have taken the lead in fighting homophobia not just in sports, but also national gay rights issues like gay marriage, which Ayanbadejo used the Super Bowl to promote.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Then there’s Chris Kluwe, who wrote a hilariously visceral letter to an anti-gay bigot Marland state legislator a while back.

NFLer Chris Kluwe on the Ed Show.

NFLer Chris Kluwe on the Ed Show.

Collins coming out matters not just because there are no openly-gay men in major American sports (until now), but also because of some of the open homophobia we’ve seen in sports even just recently.  It was only three months ago that the San Francisco 49ers’ Chris Culliver said there were no gay people in American football, and if there were, they should get out.

The 49ers’ response was typically anemic, and indicative of the challenge gay athletes face in professional sports.  While the 49ers suspended a player the month before for mouthing off about the team management, mouthing off about the teams’ minorities – and minorities nationwide – apparently doesn’t strike the 49er’s management as nearly as offensive.

And it was only six years ago that Mars & Mars thought it would be funny to run an anti-gay Super Bowl ad showing some men beating the cr*p out of each other because they thought they might be gay.  It was only after we, and TowleRoad, beat the cr*p out of Mars & Mars that the company finally relented and pulled the ad.

But you don’t need to go back six years.  Just last month, a NFL prospect says he was asked by a recruiter for a major team if he “likes girls.”  (And it’s not like we heard a lot of follow-up from the NFL on that one, either.)

Washington Wizards' Jason Collins, courtesy of the NBA.

Washington Wizards’ Jason Collins, courtesy of the NBA.

And finally, a word about Jason Colins being black.  I’ll leave it to the African-American gay bloggers to better explain the unique challenges they face coming out as gay in the black community. But Titania Kumeh at Mother Jones noted something interesting in her story, “Is Being Gay A White, European Thing?”:

It’s a claim I’ve heard before from some black people, my own family included. The rumor has it that being gay is a white inclination that’s seeped its way into the black experience via colonialization. It’s largely based on the misconception that gay people don’t exist in African history. And it’s comparable to the claims made by some conservatives that gay rights, specifically gay marriage, is a fad not rooted in “traditional values” or espoused by any society in history. Which is just plain false.

The religious right has tried to take advantage of the black community’s sometimes-discomfort with all-things-gay by attempting to sow the seeds of a race war, as we found out in secret documents that were only recently uncovered.  And all of that only makes it harder for African-American gays to come out – so Jason Collins’ revelation helps them immeasurably.

Before you go, you really should check out Ayanbadejo on CNN talking about gay marriage.  I have not seen a more articulate spokesman for our cause, even among those who are paid, and trained, to do this kind of advocacy:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Whitewitch

    Totally!!!!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It’s almost Beltane—-time to celebrate!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Perhaps Manning is too controversial for AB (Firedog does the best job of covering the details of his important story and its relevance to many aspects of civil rights and law), but there is something else going on: It’s the increasing power and influence of gay corporate conservatives that are advancing their own careers and using the mask of ‘liberal’ democrats to achieve it. Obots are co-opting traditional diverse ground roots of GLTBQ communities. SF is perfect example. There is a possible story in that.

  • George Melby

    Cooooooool Beans!!! Congratulations to Jason and all best wishes! If there any anti-gay nematodes on the Major sports leagues that don’t like it, let the resign and eat yellow snow!!!

  • Whitewitch

    It is so beyond sad to me that a man or woman has to live a lie. I hope more people will be open about who they are – remember you are lighting the path for those behind you.

    P.S. I really am a witch

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I saw that, didn’t really have an opinion either way – I’m someone ambivalent on Manning. And when I asked about him on Twitter the other day, got my head ripped off, so not feeling the love on writing about the issue. Doesn’t seem terribly ripe for asking any honest questions about, sadly.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    OT: John, are you going to pick up on the SF GTLBQ Pride cancelling of Manning as Grand Marshal?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bj.lincoln Bj Lincoln

    I am not a sports fan but I am so glad Jason was brave enough to come out. I think it is great he is black because the community needs role models.
    Brendon has been a great spokesman for the LBT population and he is loved here in Baltimore. Maryland has equal marriage and I believe it he had a lot to do with changing minds and hearts.

  • reluctant wet blanket

    Wow this is amazing all smiles.. So so happy Jason Collins came out & announce he was openly GAY ALL SUPPORT OVER HERE #ATHLETEALLY #LGBT— Kenneth Faried (@KennethFaried35) April 29, 2013

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    tomato, tomahto :)

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I think he gets a couple of bonus courage points for that. in addition, some GM’s won’t think his contribution is worth the media distraction, though it may seem like old news by November.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Yahoo has collected some Twitter reactions from other NBA players.. good stuff, especially Kenneth Faried, one of my favorite players and a guy w/ two moms: “Wow this is amazing all smiles.. So so happy Jason Collins came out & announce he was openly GAY ALL SUPPORT OVER HERE #ATHLETEALLY #LGBT”

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/kobe-bryant-bill-clinton-david-stern-others-support-163319934.html

  • Ninong

    Congratulations, Jason, on having the guts to stand up for your right to live your life as you are. This is the 21st century. Hatred and bigotry based on ignorance have no place in an educated civilized society.

  • ckg1

    Considering that the NHL has now aligned with the You Can Play project, that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

  • CSStrowbridge

    I agree with you on both points. Fans will likely be a bigger problem than teammates and basketball sucks. Can’t wait for the first NHL player to come out as gay. The NHL does seem to have a better record that the NFL has in this regard.

  • reluctant wet blanket

    Good point! Makes me feel like less of an ass for being cynical.

  • Sweetie

    It’s definitely helpful that he’s black and masculine.

    I’m really tired of seeing pics like this all over the Internet to represent gayness:

    http://i466.photobucket.com/albums/rr27/ryckyo/super-gay.jpg
    http://www.moronail.net/img/877_you_may_not_be_as_gay_as_this_but_dammit_youre_retort

  • nicho

    I think it’s quite the opposite. This will make him toxic to many professional sports teams. Most owners are fascist-leaning billionaires who cozy up to the flag-waving right-wing Christian crowds.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether any men were ever going to come out in professional American sports, at least for the major leagues: basketball (NBA); football (NFL); hockey (NHL), or major league baseball (MLB).

    Do you really mean “ever”? I’d say the talk has only been about how soon it was going to happen, not if. Ayanbadejo’s recent comments only accelerated that talk.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    That’s OK — if a pro athlete feels that public opinion is such that coming out as gay is a great way to get signed with a team, it can only be seen as a good thing.

  • reluctant wet blanket

    I’m going to say something that will piss people off, but I think it needs to be considered, and rebutted if not true. Because if I think it, then so will others who oppose equal rights.

    A 34 year old free agent who averages 3 pts and 3 rebounds per game is due to make $1.3 million next season if he can hang on for just one more year. With all the positive attention and speculation of the first major sports gay athlete coming out in the past months….. you know where I’m going and I’m sorry it’s crossed my mind, but it has.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    The Times They Are A-Changin’

  • S1AMER

    My prediction is that he’ll get more static from hostile fans than from teammates (’cause friendly guys will almost certainly form a buffer against hostile christianists and other lockerroom bigots). But we shall see.

    Me? Can’t stand basketball. But I’m cheering this guy. And I’ll bet we’ll see lots more players in other major sports coming out over the coming weeks and months. Bravo to them all!

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