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[ 150 ] April 29, 2013 |

Finally, the active Big 4 sports professional athlete barrier is broken, as Wizards center Jason Collins comes out as gay. Let’s hope it’s the first of many. It’d be nice if by, say, 2018 this wasn’t even notable anymore.

[SEK] How long will it take for a conservative to claim that teams that don’t offer him a contract or cut him after 10 days will be attacked by the ACLU? Also, I was secretly hoping it’d be LeBron. That way anyone who refused to play with him would be forced into acknowledging that they really don’t play to win because Jesus loves them more. (And Jesus would rather you lose than accept or love someone who’s different, because that’s the sort of hate Jesus was all about.)

Comments (150)

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  1. Bill Murray says:

    I hope it works better for him than Justin Fashanu.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Fashanu

    • Leeds man says:

      I remember Graham Le Saux getting homophobic taunts*, because he indulged in unmanly activities like reading The Guardian. Soccer has a long way to go.

      *Most famously from Robbie Fowler, an otherwise decent fellow, I think; the only pro I know of who tried to decline a penalty awarded to him.

      • Bill Murray says:

        Fowler also snorted the goal line after a goal.

        Robbie Rogers feeling that he needed to retire when he came out also shows that soccer has a long way to go.

        • Thlayli says:

          Fowler snorting the goal line was in response to the crowd razzing him about rumored drug use.

          I thought it was brilliant.

      • Decrease Mather says:

        I always thought Fowler was an immature punk.

  2. MikeJake says:

    Meh. Benchwarmer.

    • JKTHs says:

      Considering he started two-thirds of the games he’s played in his career…no.

    • Orpho says:

      So it’s only news when a gay, black, super-star starter for one of the big 4 come out, right? And then I’m sure you’ll talk about how he’s not that good, really, historically speaking. Nice goalpost-on-rails you’ve got there.

      • MikeJake says:

        It’s news. It’s just meh news.

        A superstar coming out would be big news.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Agreed. Unless he is simply fabulous, it isn’t news.

        • adolphus says:

          I understand Rosa Parks wasn’t that great at riding buses either.

          • CulturalCritic says:

            Heck, she couldn’t even stand up.

          • quercus says:

            And in baseball that Robinson kid couldn’t pitch worth a damn. I mean, how many wins did he have? Plus he doesn’t have as many homers as Babe Ruth, so, meh. Wake me when there’s real news.

          • MikeJake says:

            If it had been Jon Koncak who had announced that he had tested HIV positive before the 91-92 season, the public impact wouldn’t have been anywhere near the level of Magic’s announcement. Does anyone really doubt that?

            • adolphus says:

              No. And if a great big star had come out today, that might be BIGGER news. (Though I would ask you to quantify that so we can assess empirically and not depend on the opinion on some anonymous toe rag in a blog’s comments)

              But you know what? NO BIG STARS DID! This guy did. Not them. He is first. Not them. It would have been bigger news if Yogi Berra was first on Mount Everest in 1953. But he wasn’t, Edmund Hillary was.

              If and when you invent a gauge to empirically measure “public impact” and “newsiness” and can create controllable experiments to test your hypothesis you call me. Until then all you are offering is speculative, counter-factuals to prove how hip and contrarian you are. Okay, if it will make you happy, you win.

              Pardon me if I smile a bit brighter today because this man had the courage to come out in a very public and eloquent manner, while some hypothetical bigger star didn’t.

              It’s a good day.

        • DrDick says:

          It may be a small step, but it is still a first step and a very big deal.

          • Richard says:

            I agree. And i think its pretty great that so many of the big names in basketball – Kobe, Nash, Kidd, Rivers, the Buss family, the NBA itself – are applauding his decision to come out.

            As far as playing next year, he’ll get picked up by some team that needs a backup 7 footer.

    • John Protevi says:

      Curious that Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and a whole bunch of other folk don’t think Collins’s benchwarmer status distracts from the significance of his statement. Maybe you could set them straight.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Maybe you could set them straight.

        I see what you did there.

        • John Protevi says:

          Actually, it’s what my unconscious did… I didn’t intend it.

          • Bill Murray says:

            c’mon John, the first rule of Joke Club is take credit for every joke even when it was unintended

            The second rule is a pie in someone elses face is always funny, doubly so if it’s a Krystol getting pied

  3. Mike says:

    He hasn’t played for the Nets since February 2008, but it’s the thought that counts.

  4. c u n d gulag says:

    Hooray!
    And good for him!

    I think it’s also important that, not only is he in one of the major sports, but that he’s black.

    When I was living in NC, some of the gay’s I worked with were black. Both men, and women.
    And the abuse they took from fellow black people, was like nothing I’d ever seen with white gays and white people in the Northeast – and that was no day at the beach, either, in the past.

    Of course, I’m from NY, and lived and worked in the East Village (a long time ago), so my perspective is a little bit different from people raised down South.

    Of course, being gay in NC, or probably in the whole South, was, and probably still is, no picnic no matter what color, or religion, or sex, or… etc.

  5. Waingro says:

    The comments on that SI post are depressing.

  6. Richard says:

    He’s a free agent right now. He’s a 7 footer, never been a star or even a particularly valuable player but teams are always on the lookout for backup seven footers with a modicum of skill. Will be interesting to see who picks him up.

    • arthur says:

      Will be interesting to see who picks him up.

      Must . . . not . . . make . . . obvious joke. Cannot restrain myself.

  7. The point is that lots more people are gay than some– or many– assume. Gay truck drivers, gay line chiefs, gay lawyers, gay roleplayers in the NBA. I like the story about why he wears 98.

    • Timurid says:

      Pervasive discrimination against gays created a really odd subculture in which being “out” was either a privilege for those who were wealthy and/or accomplished enough to be indispensable or a risky choice by rebels and outsiders who just did not care about a steady job or the approval of society.

      If recent developments in politics, law and society really herald the collapse of organized anti-gay bias, then the prevailing stereotype of gays as inherently creative and/or eccentric is going to disappear as the vast majority of “average joes” finally surfaces. It will be interesting to see how the existing (openly) gay community reacts as more ordinary people intrude on what has so far been something of an exclusive club and a strange sort of meritocracy that favored the best and the brightest (or those who most committed to the “cause”).

  8. Pooh says:

    Though not articulately expressed, MikeJake has something of a point. He’s 34 and though was a valuable defender (more advanced metrics have him as a + defender early in his career), he’s now basically just another big stiff, for whom there was a very real chance that he’d be out of the league next year absent this announcement. I wish it was someone who mattered more on the court because its going to be disappointingly easy for him to disappear from our collective consciousness.

    • djw says:

      I guess I’m unclear on exactly what that point is. That his breaking this barrier doesn’t ‘count’ because he’s not a particularly good player? Or he should have stayed in the closet so that a better player could someday be the one to break this barrier? These points are respectively silly and appalling, but I don’t see anything else that resembles a point in his comments.

      • rea says:

        The point, goddess help us seems to be that gays have such an advantage in today’s America that this guy can ensure that he gets an NBA job by coming out, because no one would dare not hire him for fear of being sued under that nonexistant federal statute barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

        • MikeJake says:

          Yeah, that’s why he won’t be hired next season, not because he’s 35 and averages 1 point and 1.6 rebounds a game. It’s invidious discrimination that’s going to end his illustrious career.

          • Malaclypse says:

            It’s invidious discrimination that’s going to end his illustrious career.

            Well, that, plus a tragic inability to recognize sarcasm.

            • MikeJake says:

              Ah, you’re right. Pooh said it would help him land a job next season. Which I doubt.

              Sorry rea.

              • Pooh says:

                That wasn’t what I meant to imply. I have no earthly idea if it will matter. Which makes this sad because in the chance that he doesn’t get a job there is going to be an argument over whether its because he’s out or because he’s old (in nba terms) and bad at basketball (again, in NBA terms).

                I wish it had been someone making guaranteed money next year is what I should have said. That way, we completely avoid the potential circus of his job search (is it a positive for gay rights that the contract status of a journeyman center will be national news just because he’s gay?) and move on to the fact that his teammates will have basically no problems with him because that’s where the real progress comes in.

        • Joe says:

          The point seems to be that he is a marginal player and won’t get much attention as compared to you know if Derek Jeter came out as gay or something. The reference to being out of the league “absent this announcement” seems to imply that it might help him in some way, I guess. But, the “he isn’t important enough as a symbol” point seems to be more important to the 2 people who cited it.

          • Pooh says:

            Again “absent this announcement” was probably poor choice of words. Basically I think there’s a good chance he would have been out of the league next year and I still think that. The problem is that if that happens, the conversation will be combined Tebow+Te’o levels of stupid as people argue whether its because he’s out or because he’s bad and old.

        • OmerosPeanut says:

          I thought the point, to the extent there was one, was that he may have been nearing the end of his career whether or not he wrote this article. There is room for a bigger impact from a young player coming out, one who has a solid 10+ seasons ahead of him, rather than one in his declining pro years.

          And what a horrible thought that 34 is “old.”

          • OmerosPeanut says:

            I should add that I don’t think it matters if he’s good or not on the court. What matters most is that he’ll be around long enough to serve as a rallying point. Coming out just barely on the “wrong” side of the retirement line is a small gain for openness over what came before, but much smaller than if it was a player in his first few seasons.

      • MikeJake says:

        Sorry, I just can’t get fired up to gush over the courage of a career role player coming out. It’s not much more noteworthy than a retired role player coming out. This is the only thing Jason Collins did in his career that he will be remembered for. If a star ever does come out, we’ll be bound to remember Collins, but it’ll be a footnote.

        • John Protevi says:

          As I say above, a bunch of current NBA players from Kobe Bryant to Steve Nash to Bradley Beal, seem to think this is a big deal. Why are they wrong and you right?

          • MikeJake says:

            If they’re still talking about it in 3 months, you’ll maybe have a point.

            • John Protevi says:

              What, is that your version of a Friedman unit? Why three months?

              Why not let Bryant, Nash, et al. tell us that this is a big deal? What insight do you have that they lack?

              • MikeJake says:

                Kobe Bryant firing off a supportive tweet doesn’t elevate this story beyond historical footnote. It’s a nice story, it’s not a bombshell.

                • DrDick says:

                  Sorry, but any first step is by definition a bombshell. Maybe not a very big bombshell, but still a bombshell.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Bryant’s support helps make this important. And besides, it’s not just Bryant, it’s a host of other folks, in the NBA and beyond, all the way to Bill Clinton. Their judgment that this is important, and the media attention it’s getting, makes this important. Why is it hard for you to accept that they don’t care about his bad stats?

                • MikeJake says:

                  Only time will tell.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Only time will tell.

                  I blame Loomis, who did not even have the decency to wait for an appropriate interval before passing judgement. Fucking historians…

                • bspencer says:

                  If it’s not a bombshell why are a surprising amount of fuckfaces on twitter calling him a “faggot?” Obviously, for reasons awesome and terrible, this is important.

                • MikeJake says:

                  Because Twitter is full of fuckfaces?

                • bspencer says:

                  *sigh*

                  That there was such a visceral reaction to his coming out is precisely why it’s important that he did. I don’t give a fuck what his position is where he is in his career.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I’m not at all perplexed why MikeJake has 15 comments about why this is unimportant and not worth discussing.

                • Hogan says:

                  I’m not at all perplexed why MikeJake has 15 comments about why this is unimportant and not worth discussing.

                  But you know what is important and worth discussing? People thinking this is important and worth discussing. We should totally discuss that. Importantly.

      • Murc says:

        MikeJake’s comments are callous in the extreme, but there is a valid point hiding deep down in there, I think.

        Mr. Collins is, of course, to be lauded for his bravery. Nobody should have to remain closeted and the fact that he had to be in and out of locker rooms for a very, very long time with that hanging over him is pretty awful.

        But in order to really crack open professional sports it is, I think, more or less going to require someone who is too good at the game to effectively be “disappeared”. Collins is by most reports on his way out of the league. This wasn’t precisely a risky move on his part career-wise, and he isn’t a marquee player. I really do think it’s going to require someone who kids are putting up posters of and who is getting mentioned on ESPN every day in order to have an ongoing salutary effect.

        That said, every little bit helps.

    • Why am I in this handbasket? says:

      he’s now basically just another big stiff

      I see what you did there.

    • Mike Schilling says:

      Retired players have already come out. A guy who’s not officially retired but won’t be offered another contract is only a small step beyond that.

    • JKTHs says:

      Though not articulately expressed, MikeJake has something of a point. He’s 34 and though was a valuable defender (more advanced metrics have him as a + defender early in his career), he’s now basically just another big stiff, for whom there was a very real chance that he’d be out of the league next year absent this announcement.

      Ok, how bout this? It’s only a big deal for someone who’s had a season with at least 10 win shares or a PER above 20.

      • Pooh says:

        Lol PER and win shares. His APM has to be at least +4.

        Again, my point wasn’t intended to be that he’s too bad to matter, the point was that given his age/contract status combined with his skills, the likelihood of being forced into a completely non-productive discussion next fall is high.

  9. TT says:

    Given the statements and efforts by the league and a lot of the players, I always thought an active NHL player would be the first to come out, but it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that it’s an NBA player. Seems to me that conservative, evangelical Christianity doesn’t have any sort of influence in the NHL and relatively minimal in the NBA. The same cannot at all be said about MLB or, especially, the NFL.

    • Jamie says:

      I kind of always thought it would be the NBA. The NHL and NFL seem to believe their own shit about being hyper-masculine, modern day gladiators, and MLB has the highest Redneck/Fundamentalist/Tea Party ratio of any of the sports. (I’m a fan of all of these sports, mind you.)

      Basketball values self-expression and individuality more than any of the other sports – no other league has anything close to the Slam Dunk contest, for example. So I think the NBA is probably a more welcoming environment than other leagues, although obviously I’m sure there are plenty of bigots still in the league.

    • MikeJake says:

      Not that it’s totally comparable, but I think the NBA already tread similar ground when Magic Johnson revealed he had HIV.

      • Jamie says:

        Of course that episode just reinforced how much homophobia existed in the league – see Magic getting rapturous applause on a talk show for emphatically declaring that he wasn’t gay.

        • Joshua says:

          Shit I remember when he came back for the all star game and nobody bothered to play defense on him, even All Star Game defense, for fear of touching him.

          It is kind of hard to believe that was only about 20 years ago. We have truly made wonderful progress on these fronts.

          • timb says:

            You mean, medical science has. The average schmo on the street (or a conservative blog) would still recoil in terror if you told them the guy/gal next to them on the bus was HIV+

  10. Decrease Mather says:

    Interesting:

    He has a twin brother who didn’t know he was guy.

    He was a friend of Chelsea Clinton’s at Stanford.

  11. Richard says:

    So far this morning, he’s got congrats and support from some of the big names in the NBA – Kobe, Steve Nash, etc.

    • John Protevi says:

      Yes. And we should value their opinions as to the significance of this event more highly than that of MikeJake.

      • Cody says:

        Well that’s all great and stuff, but Mike’s point that the guy is pretty much a retired NBA player already still stands.

        • John Protevi says:

          I really think that “Cody” should tweet at Kobe Bryant to tell him that some LGM commenters know more about the significance of today’s event than he does.

          • Cody says:

            Ah, I didn’t know if someone who is famous proclaims something it’s important and changes everything.

            Quick! Lets invade Iraq, George W. Bush said it was important!

            • actor212 says:

              Any distinction to be made with respect to his age or playing status is minimized by the fact he still has to stand naked in the shower with eleven other men, all active players, after a tough game.

              He came to this decision after a long thought process. That pretty much demands maturity, and that usually demands experience. In the future, I expect we’ll see more and younger players come out. First steps are always the most difficult, because you are breaking inertia.

              Good on Jason and God bless him

              • Cody says:

                stand naked in the shower with eleven other men, all active players, after a tough game.

                But my point is he DOESN’T have to do this, because he is most likely never going to play for another team.

                There’s still a chance he gets picked up by someone, but it seems most likely he is a practically a retired player making this announcement.

              • tip says:

                fyi – professional game and practice facilities are better equipped than your high school gym

                • actor212 says:

                  No, really? I would never have known that! Gosh, I bet they don’t travel by bus, either!

                  Your nitpick doesn’t negate my larger point: he got naked and dressed in front of other men who mocked his orientation, if not directly to him.

            • Hogan says:

              This is an excellent point. Kids, just because Kobe Bryant tells you to be gay doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

  12. Joe says:

    I was watching Personal Best over the weekend so this sort of thing came to mind. I also wonder if any one would make a similar movie about a gay male same sex relationship, including the free use of nudity and easy sexuality. Anyway, good luck.

  13. howard says:

    when john amaechi came out after he retired a few years ago, i saw an interview with him and he said something along the lines of “there i’d be in the locker room with guys who were comparing their clothes and trying each other’s clothes on, showing off how buff and toned they were, and endlessly talking about their sex lives, and i’d think ‘i’m the one who’s gay?’”

    • adolphus says:

      I had that same reaction, kinda/sorta, when one of the half-time analysts for a football game (I forget which one, I think Terry Bradhsaw was there) and they were making metro-sexual jokes.

      Seriously guys? Wearing $1,000+ suits, more product in their hair than Flock-of-Seagulls, pinky rings, and earrings and you think you aren’t them???

  14. RobNYNY1957 says:

    I keep waiting for an opera singer or ballet dancer to come out as gay.

  15. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    [SEK] How long will it take for a conservative to claim that teams that don’t offer him a contract or cut him after 10 days will be attacked by the ACLU?

    ..along with claims of excessive affirmative action and reverse discrimination.

    Jonah Goldberg tried to get on an NBA team, and they didn’t even return his calls! He’s clearly the Real Victim™ here.

  16. Josh says:

    As far as SEK’s update goes: already happened. With added San Francisco-bashing.

  17. Unhinged Liberal says:

    Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

    Fuck YEAH! Let’s hope they all come out!!

    Then we’d have the GAY NBA and the GAY NFL….kinda like we have the SPECIAL Olympics now.

    Then we could have the GAY PGA, only for homosexuals.

    It’d be great!!!

    • Slocum says:

      Lessons in homophobia supported by uncharitable reading from rightwing asshate, no. 1654.

    • actor212 says:

      You know what would be great? A GAY GOP.

      Oh wait. We got that one already…

    • sharculese says:

      Sorry you’re scared of the world.

    • bspencer says:

      One half of your nym is really appropriate.

    • C.S says:

      Let’s hope they all come out!!

      Then we’d have the GAY NBA and the GAY NFL

      Wait — it sounds like you’re saying that straight people aren’t good at sports. That’s . . . that’s pretty insulting, dude. Why, did you know that Joe DiMaggio was straight? It’s true! He married Marilyn Monroe and everything! Sure, that’s just baseball, but even the more “manly” sports have had their share of straight athletes. Did you know that David Beckham married a Spice Girl? Of course, he’s British and they’re much more tolerant of marrying Spice Girls than we are.

      • C.S says:

        To clarify, if all gay people in sports coming out would mean that the NBA would become the “GAY NBA,” and the NFL would become the “GAY NFL,” then it stands to reason that UL doesn’t believe there are enough straight people in those respective sports to keep them from being re-sexualized.

  18. actor212 says:

    And here I thought he was coming out for being black.

  19. bspencer says:

    Good for Jason.

    Now, what does Ben Shapiro have to say about this?

  20. timb says:

    [SEK] How long will it take for a conservative to claim that teams that don’t offer him a contract or cut him after 10 days will be attacked by the ACLU?

    Limbaugh didn’t cover it until his third hour, but he did agree with a caller that if there were a hard foul, liberals would call it a hate crime.

    So, there you go

  21. Jordan says:

    There is a nice little article in response to the posturings of people like MikeJake et all here at grantland that I think captures their motivations pretty well.

    • hickes01 says:

      Unless MikeJake has a long history of trolling, I don’t believe he’s out of line here. The NBA is all about it’s stars. The true litmus test will arrive when a big-time star comes out. After all, nobody’s paying $100 bucks for a Jason Collins jersey. (Until now). Let me also add that I applaud Mr. Collins and wish him well.

      • Jordan says:

        No, MikeJake and the others are doing exactly what is described in the second paragraph of the article. Instead of understanding the main thing here – whoah, that is courageous! good for him! – they look for any grumpy contrarian position they can take.

        • hickes01 says:

          I understand what you are saying Jordan, and I’m not trying to be difficult, but I disagree. I think we both agree that the ultimate goal is acceptance. We’re not there, yet. I agree that Mr. Collins is brave and I applaud him. But I hope for the day that one does not have to be brave to be gay in the NBA.

          • Jordan says:

            Oh sure I agree with just about everything you say here. I disagree that it isn’t still a big deal, worthy of notice. I disagree that he shouldn’t be applauded. I think the motivation for making some of the above comments was the desire to carve out some grumpy contrarian position, rather than just say “yay” like a decent person.

            I’m not saying I disagree with YOU about any of that. But certainly some of the people upthread.

      • bspencer says:

        The true litmus test will be when God comes out as gay. Anything less is much ado about nothing.

  22. [...] what must be the most compelling evidence that Things I Write On The Internet Come True — and in that order no less — one of you lot sent me an email [...]

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