“If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance,” Rivers said.
Yes, that is the quest.
The macho, male-dominated world of professional sports has never had an active player reveal that he was gay. That changed Monday when Collins, through a Sports Illustrated story, stopped, as he described it, “living a lie” and said he was gay. Collins, who has played for several NBA teams, including Rivers’ Celtics, is being heralded by many for his decision considering no one’s quite sure how it will play out.
The White House, including first lady Michelle Obama, used Twitter to thank Collins for being the torch-bearer for male gay athletes. Many others — Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton, David Stern, Martina Navratilova — did the same. For those who embrace equality for all people, regardless of who or what they are, it was a day to remember.
Time will tell, of course, if Collins is a trend-setter or a historical footnote. Social scientists can better explain the finer details of why gay female athletes — such as Brittney Griner, the WNBA’s top draft pick this spring — don’t face the same intense criticism as their male counterparts. The demeaning stereotypes extremists place on gay athletes, particularly gay men, have long been entrenched and, in some cases, readily accepted by sports’ leadership.
We choose to view Collins’ story as a chapter of the larger issue that is gay acceptance in 21st-century America. The Obama administration has moved this nation in the right direction in terms of gay rights. Legalization of gay marriage remains a divisive issue; same-sex marriage is legal in nine states, but 30 states, including Alabama, have adopted constitutional provisions limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
Collins represents where this nation should go — to a time when no man or woman should fear reprisal or discrimination because of their sexuality.