Jason Collins Has No Team, But He'll Always Be A Trailblazer

A historic day in sports, NBA veteran Jason Collins announced that he's gay, making him the first openly gay male athlete playing for a major American sports team.

That's why I was disappointed to hear Mike Francesa say on WFAN, "It means less than nothing to me that there is a gay player now out in the NBA. SI going to reveal [that] this week in, I don't know why, I guess a dramatic attempt to sell a magazine."

I've seen similar message posts from a few in the sports media and many more from the anonymous. I want to believe it is because they think the world already is so enlightened that any gay man will be welcomed in every professional locker room. I fear they carry a more callous unspoken message.

No, I don't think Jason Collins is Jackie Robinson. He's already in the NBA. Hundreds of others unjustly excluded won't follow him into major league sports. Yet maybe other humans, especially young, frightened souls, will be made to feel comfortable enough to express themselves and become whole.

The male locker room can be juvenile and cruel. Believe me. I've been in there for 35 years. An NHL player once looked me dead in the eye and said he'd cut the testicles off any gay teammate. That was 25 years ago. Much has changed. Much has evolved. Collins' announcement was greeted by a bunch of supportive tweets, from David Stern to Kobe Bryant to Jason Kidd to Bill Clinton and on and on.

Chris Broussard of ESPN, however, said he spoke to dozens of players, coaches, general managers and the response was a "mixed bag," and because of the politically correct environment some wouldn't express their true feelings. On "Outside the Lines," Broussard also made reference to the Bible on homosexuality and said, "I believe that's living in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian."

I already incurred the wrath of one watchdog group after loudly supporting Marcy MacDonald after she came out as a lesbian in 2005 and talked about reciting the rosary as she swam the English Channel. So what the heck. I may burn in hell one day, Mr. Broussard, but it won't be for my open support of gay rights.

Collins wrote that he told his Aunt Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco, and she said she had figured out he was gay a long time ago. Yet when he told his twin brother, Jarron, also a long-time NBA player, he was shocked. "So much for twin telepathy," Collins wrote. Jarron was totally supportive. The No. 98 Jason wore with the Celtics and Wizards? It makes some sense now. It was a tribute to Matthew Shepard, the gay college student in Wyoming who was tortured and murdered in 1998.

Rivers called Collins one of his favorite team players. Collins has banged heads with the giants from Shaquille O'Neal on. He drove Dwight Howard crazy a few years ago. He's a journeyman but, man, he made the journey tougher for some of the stars.

"I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay?" Collins wrote. But I've always been an aggressive player, even in high school. Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn't make you soft? Who knows? That's something for a psychologist to unravel."

With that, Jason Collins is complete, is whole.

The question that must be asked is, are we?

Collins is near the end of the line as an NBA player. What team will sign the free agent center? Or will it be easier not to sign him and say it had nothing to do with being gay. He was done as a player, third-string, too old. And how would prospective teammates, especially the young and immature ones, receive him? Will some fear growing too close to him for fear of others suspecting something?

Male team sports must clear this final barrier. And now is the time.

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