Someone would be the first. It would have to happen, because we know that Americans are as diverse in their sexuality as they are in their skin colors. We were already sitting and waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in June on same-sex marriages, and Americans, surveys keep reminding us, are less homophobic now than in the past.
One of the final bastions of sexual intolerance, however, has long been team sports. The macho world of athletics didn’t lend itself to alternative lifestyles, which is how many people and most clerics viewed homosexuality. The tide began to shift, shifting at more than a glacial pace, too.
We can see how much it has shifted now that Jason Collins, a journeyman center for the Washington Wizards, has come out of the closet.
Collins penned a thoughtful essay about his angst for Sports Illustrated; his frustrations and his fears about being a Black athlete who loved men are on display.
“I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: This guy is gay?” Collins wrote in his SI article.
His decision will surprise, of course. In their world, machismo collides headfirst with homosexuality. They bed women, and the groupies out there, bed them, too. Black athletes listen to the demeaning lyrics of hard-core rappers like Rick Ross and 2 Chainz. Too many of them enjoy the devil-may-care, no-rules lifestyles that come with wealth and no moral foundation.
Not all of these athletes are like that. I don’t want to use a broad brush to tar all of them. Still, you see and you hear about what Black athletes enjoy. They enjoy women, and their crew is filled with other men who enjoy women as well.
That leaves no room for gay men. Or so it would seem.
Until now, we had no way of judging. When Olympian Greg Louganis came out, no one cared. Louganis was a diver, hardly a mainstream sport. Still, no one was foolish enough to think the NBA or the NFL or Major League Baseball didn’t have players who were gay or bisexual. People just didn’t talk about the NBA and gayness. Certainly, the players never talked about it. Now, they have no choice.
The face of homosexuality is in front of them; it is in their locker rooms; it is on the court. The face they see is that of Jason Collins, 34, a Stanford-educated Black man who had been part of their world for most of this millennium. They can’t pretend his face never existed, even if they tried. Nor can any of us.
The challenge we all face — all of us who follow pro sports and all of those who play pro sports — is how we will react to Collins. Do we loathe how he sullied the pristine, macho world of manhood? Or do we salute him for an announcement that all of us knew would come someday?
The someday is upon us now, whether we like it or not. Collins stepped forward and made us confront it and, frankly, on his terms.
Jason Collins chose to come out and, in essence, he manned up. He said, “I’m gay.” In a country that brags about how much it values choice, we should be proud Collins did.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
BET Sports News -- Get the latest news and information about African-Americans in sports including weekly recaps, celebrity news and photos of your favorite Black athletes. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)