January 26, 2016

DENSON | The Rise and Fall of Jason Collins

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Time Magazine is no stranger to controversy. At the turn of the century the editors’ original choice for the Time Person of Century — Adolf Hitler — was shot down like the man’s Luftwaffe planes over London. Jason Collins, the famous homosexual 7-foot center, was one of Time’s Top-100 most influential people in the world last year. Does a man who would otherwise be completely unnoteworthy in the NBA deserve this kind of attention? Coming out has changed Jason Collins’ life — and the sports world — forever. Besides being the talking point on ESPN for three months, and getting a heavily scrutinized 10-day contract with the Nets, this man has forever broken the mold of what is “acceptable” in the locker room. And I’m sorry to say this but … who cares?

It’s not a big deal that a marginal NBA center has come out. Other than extending his career by about a year, Collins has used his fame as a stage to declare his sexual orientation. If he weren’t an NBA player, albeit one with limited talent, he would just be an ordinary homosexual black man. The Huffington Post reported, “79 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans said they would support a team that signed a gay athlete. The focus needs to be shifted from the public’s views to that of the athletes’.

Yes, the majority of Americans would support a team with a homosexual athlete, but in no way does this tolerance translate to the players’ themselves. Oftentimes, the media serves as a deterrent to gay athletes coming out — the scrutiny, pressure and attention may be all too much for an athlete that isn’t used to the hard-pressured sports media. We need athletes to do more than come out of the closet, to do more than simply tolerate a gay teammate and to do more than ignore the homophobia. LeBron James is more than an athlete — he is an ambassador of sports culture in the world, and the much sought after universal tolerance of the sports cosmos rests on his shoulders. Sexuality has no place in athletics. And the media victimized Collins through its praise, in labeling him as the “gay athlete.” Sorry Mr. Collins, but that is all you will ever be — the “gay athlete” who made no impact in the NBA besides the fact that his personal life eclipsed his professional one. Not far behind Collins are the echoes of Jose Canseco, O.J. Simpson and the dozens of other sportspeople who are more famous for their opinions and actions than their performances.

Tolerance rests with those who have the power to change their culture. Michael Jordan, an athlete who is synonymous with “perfection” has the inherent duty of bettering sports culture. For behold Michael, the Kingdom of God is in your midst! The social barriers of society do not define what we think is acceptable, it is the actions and words of those men and women who we look up to — the men and women that we aspire to be and follow in their lead. As a voice of my generation, I am calling on all those who have the power to make a change and for sports people to take a stand on intolerance stemmed from bigotry, fear and hate. Unfortunately, as the most prominent athletes remain silent, or passive, on this issue we will not see any progress. As evident by ESPN’s reporting of recently outed NFL draftee Michael Sam’s showering habits in the locker room, American sports culture is not ready for accepting gay athletes. The brotherhood of mankind calls for unification against adversity, and I can’t wait until all sportspersons are considered “athletes” first and foremost.

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