Little-known, little-considered NBA backup center Jason Collins hasn’t had what you would call a star career in basketball.
At the age of 34, he’s played for six different teams in 12 years. He has never made an All-Star team. He’s never been a scoring threat – at least in terms of points on the board. In fact, he has never even been a full-time starting player on any of those teams.
Right now he’s without a contract for next year.
Yet, today he’s the biggest story in professional sports.
Because he came out of the closet as a homosexual – the first active player in American big-league competitive sports to do so.
As a result, he got a congratulatory call from Barack Obama. Michelle Obama Tweeted praised for him, saying “So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back!”
Not to be outdone, Bill Clinton also released a statement of encouragement, asking fans, NBA players and the media to support and respect him. He said it was an “important moment” for professional sports. Collins, said Clinton, is “a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek – to be able to be who we are, to do our work, to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive.”
Excuse me if I suggest this is not exactly the Jackie Robinson story.
Collins played in a total of 38 games this season, split between two teams. Even a celebratory article in the New York Times referred to him honestly as a “marginal player with limited skills.”
No teams were scrambling to sign him to a new contract before he played the “gay” card. But with the help of some very big-name cheerleaders not known for their sports acumen, he has successfully raised his presence in the marketplace as a relatively low-priced box-office curiosity – a man who may not shoot hoops very effectively, but who may boost attendance for some club just by riding the bench as a backup player.
So far, only one person knowledgeable in sports has had the guts to say what is really going on here – Chris Broussard, an NBA analyst on ESPN whose job might very well be in danger for stating his honest opinion. Broussard, a Christian, said that living openly as a homosexual is a sin and that doing so was “walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ.”
Now that takes courage. These days, that’s risky business.
There’s little need for Collins to worry about media reaction or how most NBA stars will react to the big announcement. They’ve already been put on notice by the sport cartel that showers them in tens of millions and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars to run up and down a basketball court.
Kobe Bryant, who would like to put behind him his own sexual misbehavior of a decade ago, in which he was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a 19-year-old Colorado hotel employee who said he raped her, was quick to voice support. Bryant admitted an adulterous sexual encounter with his accuser, but denied her sexual assault allegation. Bryant apologized after the case was dropped, saying, “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
If she did not consent, of course, it was rape, right?
Bryant Tweeted at Collins: “Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others.” His hashtags were “courage” and “support.”
You can almost guess what comes next.
Will the teams officially declaring their support for Collins actually offer him a contract?
If they don’t, will they be accused of discrimination?
In his Sports Illustrated essay, Collins is clearly looking for a job: “I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.”
Whether or not Collins ever plays professional basketball or not, you can be assured he will not suffer. There will be book contracts, movie deals and lots of personal appearances.
Who says sin doesn’t pay?
And what can one say about the obsession by people like the Obamas and the Clintons in making heroes out of people because of their sexual proclivities?