Last week the news broke when Jason Collins became the first active player to announce he is openly gay. This was major news because there had never been an active athlete to ever announce this; usually most would wait until they have been retired a few years to even mention it. To say there were mixed reviews would be an understatement, but for the most part, other players seemed to be supportive of him.
But this led me to wonder, how are sports fans taking this news? Most everyone I have talked with about it seem to have a “who cares” attitude. One person even said “being gay doesn’t affect his ability to play the game”. Which is a very true statement, but for most fans, especially the younger fans there is a perceived “macho” attitude and expectation towards professional athletes. Does Collins being “open” about his true self make him less macho?
Former players have come out and said they suspected some of their former teammates as being gay, but again, nobody ever came out and said it or admitted it. Are players willing to be more accepting today than they have been in the past? I guess we won’t really ever know until there are more players who take the same step Collins did. What about the owners and front office staff? Will they be accepting, or will the “good ole boys club” try to shut out the player who opens up.
This will be the next issue we see raised as it seems like this will open the door for more players to open up and be true to themselves. It will be interesting to see how the NBA handles Jason Collins going forward, because he is a free agent and says he wants to continue to play. Will there be teams lining up to sign him? Or will they stay away from him. If he does get signed, will he be accepted by the fan base?
While these are questions that won’t be answered anytime soon, we can only hope society has come far enough to be accepting of an openly gay athlete. Fans, Owners and GM’s should all be ready to accept the fact it will happen and do what is right, judge the player on his merit, not his sexual orientation. Because who a player has a relationship with does not affect his ability to play the game and fans shouldn’t care as long as they give their best to the team every time they play.