COLUMN: Coming out shouldn't be a big deal
The cardinal rule
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 23:02
NBA center Jason Collins pulled on a jersey on Sunday, laced up his shoes and took the court with nine other men, just like every other game of his 12-year career; only this time, he did so as the first openly gay NBA player. It’s about time someone did.
While Collins checked into the game in front of a loud ovation at the Staples Center, former University of Missouri football player Michael Sam participated in the NFL Combine. Sam came out to the media two weeks before the combine, and after he works out for scouts, gets drafted and goes through OTAs, he will step on the field in the fall as the first openly gay NFL player, and it’s about time.
Both Collins and Sam have said they wish this was not such a big deal, that being openly gay and playing a professional sport shouldn’t be a story. They are right. However, it shouldn’t have been a big deal for Jackie Robinson to step into the batters box all of those years ago. Surely Robinson would have wished he could have gone to a press conference after the game and talk about baseball as much as Collins and Sam would want to tell the media about basketball and football. It’s not that simple, though.
I’ll be the first to say that hopefully one day, this won’t be that newsworthy. Hopefully one day, the fact that an athlete is gay is listed Wikipedia page will barely be a noteworthy fact. After all, Collins had a successful career before he came out last year and Sam won co-defensive MVP in what is considered the best conference in college football. So yes, objectively, nothing has changed. They are the same people with the same capabilities.
We don’t live in that world right now. We live in a world where athletes don’t know how they will be treated if they come out. The repercussions of owning up to the way they feel are uncharted and unprecedented. We live in a world where what Collins and Sam are doing is brave.
The most important thing about all of this is that somewhere, there are kids and teenagers confused about how they feel that can turn on their television and see these athletes, proudly gay and competing at the highest possible athletic level. They can look at Collins and Sam and see that it doesn’t matter if their sexual orientation is different than that of their teammates. It’s about time they can have those role models.
However, don’t be mistaken; Collins and Sam are two of the best role models in sports today for all young aspiring athletes, no matter what gender they are attracted to. Sam has had three siblings die and two more jailed. He promised himself from a young age he wouldn’t follow that path. Collins proved he can contribute to a team despite his aging body, proving that hard work will eventually pay off.
It looks like the world of sports is ready for this new movement as well. Fans in the Staples Center gave Collins, not a Laker but a Net, a strong ovation. Sam’s teammates knew all season that he was gay and didn’t leak it or let it become a distraction. Collins’ No. 98 Brooklyn Nets jersey is the top selling jersey on NBA.com.
Yes, they represent more than being gay athletes. Hopefully one day, players coming out won’t be a headline, but for now, take in the view and appreciate what is happening, because nobody ever realizes how far the climb was until they look down from the top. In the world of professional sports, it’s about time.
– Jeffrey Dahdah is a sophomore studying statistics and journalism. He is a die-hard Cardinals, Rams, Jazz and Aggies fan. He loves sports statistics and loves using them to analyze and prove his points. If you have something to say to him, feel free to email him at email@example.com or tweet at him @dahdahUSU.