April 18, 2014

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Burn the Closet

When it was revealed this month that NBA player Jason Collins, most recently with the Washington Wizards, had written an article for Sports Illustrated essentially kicking open the closet doors while stating, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” the response from the sporting world and the world in general was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone from President Obama to L.A. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant publicly praised Collins for his bravery, and they were right to. Collins has just made the world an easier place to live in for many people.

However, shouldn’t the bigger question be, why the fuck does anyone care? In 2013, is it really shocking for an adult male to be gay? Yes, Collins is the country’s first active professional sports player to announce that he’s gay (although at the time of writing he’s a free agent, so the word ‘active’ is being stretched), and so the outpouring of public sentiment was inevitable. However, that Collins made this move and the story extended beyond the day’s headlines is ridiculous. We should be past this. “Jason Collins is gay” should have the same impact as “Jason Collins is a vegetarian,” “Jason Collins likes ’70s R&B” or “Jason Collins owns Spiderman jammies.” Who gives a shit?

People seem a touch preoccupied wondering how Collins’ future teammates will react in the locker room (as if, before this revelation, pro basketball players were waving their schlongs around like batons in a parade).

As Ronni Sergeant, a former psychologist for the British Army, told us, that’s ridiculous. “This really makes no difference at all. You look at stereotypical ‘manly’ scenarios like the military and think someone’s sexual preferences will throw a kink in the way things function. It’s just not how it works, especially nowadays. It’s like how most young people feel about gay marriage — who cares? Everyone should be equal.”

Who cares indeed? In fact, not to knock Collins, but before his coming out became such a media event, when was the last time his name was mentioned in a story of any significance? “Jason Collins has been a career back-up center so his national and even local marketing and endorsement profile has been limited,” Howard Krugel from Farmington Hills-based Dietz Trott Sports & Entertainment Management told us. “Jason being the first active team sport professional athlete to publicly announce that he is gay has really increased his national profile. Who was talking about Jason Collins before his SI article?”

Krugel, vice president of Sales and Marketing at Dietz Trott, adds, “In his case, as the public pioneer on this issue, he might get some national endorsement opportunities that he would not have been a candidate for based on his star status as a player. Had a superstar been the first to ‘come out,’ I would hope that corporate America is tolerant enough in 2013 to not have an issue like this affect their endorsement profile, but that brand might not want the controversy, even if they support Jason, his right to live an open, honest life, and his lifestyle.”

We don’t want to be cynical and suggest that Collins has just made an astute career move. Surely it would be patronizing to suggest, “pay the man; he’s gay.” We hope this has no bearing on his career whatsoever. If he remains at the same level playing-wise, then he should remain a back-up center. If he gets better, then maybe he’ll demand a more prominent role in a team somewhere.

Meanwhile, let him bang whomever he wants to bang.

MT editorial intern Jason Singer contributed reporting for this column.

 

Brett Callwood is a staff writer for Metro Times. Send comments to bcallwood@metrotimes.com.

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