Jason Collins made big news this week by announcing that he is gay. This makes him the first active gay athlete in any professional US sport. It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that his announcement made headline news.
It’s fortunate news because I hope that Jason’s announcement paves the way for other professional athletes to be open and accepted for who they are. I think it’s an inherent right to live your life as you so wish. To feel like you can’t do that must be incredibly difficult.
To my second point, it’s unfortunate that Jason’s announcement is news. It tells me that as a society, we’re failing. This nation’s history is full of advancements in civil rights yet for some reason I feel like no one knows that. What’s that saying… those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it? We all know it, why are we repeating it? But, as with any glass full person, I have hope, and I think sports will be a pioneer as it has been time and time again to breakdown these barriers.
I can’t even tell you how many times I was at Firestone’s Grill down in San Luis Obispo watching the Lakers and Kings play each other in the playoffs. It must have been three years in a row. I’d be there watching the games with some of my best friends who were Kings fans (I bleed Purple and Gold) but would be jumping up and down, high-fiving, or hugging some random Lakers fan after the Lakers would win. Or even consoling some stranger after they lost. I didn’t know those people. I had no idea who they were, if they were gay or straight, but we had one thing in common and that’s all that mattered. Sports brought us together.
Sports brings out the best in us as a society. We’re there for each other through the good times and the bad. Except for San Francisco Giants‘ fans. They only come out when the team is winning =). But the point is: community. When people are at the games, wear their colors, and cheer for their teams, all opinions, values, and beliefs seem to go by the way side. I would hope that this type of community forming flows through to professional teams. At no point should someone’s personal beliefs dictate the support an organization shows for something irrelevant to their goal.
I hope that we’ve witnessed enough of bigotry and hatred in our past to now know that those things that we supposedly hate about someone impact our own lives negatively because it takes away from the end goal. Jackie Robinson broke down racial barriers and showed how powerful a team really can be. I hope that everything he fought for and endured will not be in vain. I don’t say that to take away from anything he’s done for modern day professional sports; I say that because we’re facing a new challenge and the lessons we learned from him apply now more than ever.
I tip my hat to Jason. Whether or not you agree with his lifestyle has nothing to do with your capability to admire his courage. I think it’s something we all need to do. It’s time to finally acknowledge people for their achievements and not who they love. Oh and treat them like people.
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