Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So, I Guess an Athlete Being Gay is Still a Big Deal

Jason Collins (left) became the first openly gay NBA player Sunday night, and Michael Sam (right) is the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect.
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

The other night Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in NBA history.

Collins, who signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, made his first appearance since "coming out" Sunday, and was as unremarkable on the court as he has been his entire career.

In 11 minutes, he grabbed a pair of rebounds, somehow amassed five fouls, missed his only shot attempt and committed two turnovers. What was remarkable, to some people apparently, was that the ground did not open up and swallow Collins into eternal damnation.

Yes, it's the gay issue, the one that people keep saying we're past, but all recent activity in the world suggests we're not. When Michael Sam came out as the first openly gay NFL prospect, our legendary blogger Bob Lobel said this shouldn't still be a big deal.

I agree, and clearly players in the NBA agree, as there have been zero reported issues with Collins' signing, but unfortunately our man Bob may be engaging in some wishful thinking.

Yesterday, SuiteSports editor Jeremy Conlin posted this article, which I at first assumed was written by the folks at The Onion. It's about a lobbyist named Jack Burkman who is hoping to gain support for a bill to ban gay players from the National Football League. Why he isn't trying to ban gay players from all sports (or jobs), I don't know, but this makes his attempt at "statement" legislation all the more hypocritical.

Listen, I'm conservative in a lot of ways. I believe in limited government, and I sure as hell don't think Congress should be passing laws that tell specific corporations what they can and cannot do, or who they can and cannot hire.

So, how could any conservative with an ounce of self-awareness support a bill that would tell the NFL who it can and cannot hire? If you're going to be a bigot, at least be a consistent bigot and let the world know you don't want gay people to have any jobs. But to attempt to ban them from one company? That doesn't even make sense in your own warped view of the world, Mr. Burkman.

The real kicker is this quote, where the Washington lobbyist shows us the depth of his God-complex.

“If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it,” Burkman said.

Yes, because surely employing a gay individual is the most sinister business practice an American corporation has engaged in lately...

Add in the fact that many anonymous NFL executives are saying Sam's NFL Draft stock will suffer because of his announcement, and claiming that NFL locker rooms may not be ready for a gay player, and we see that we're far from where we need to be. If you think we are, just search for "Michael Sam gay" on Twitter or Google and see some of the crazy things "average" people are saying about him.

And let's not get started on the Sochi Olympics. If you're going to host a huge event that serves as the world's premier figure skating/ice dancing competition, and still get away with being homophobic, there's a lot of room for improvement. Here in the U.S., we have states like Kansas, Arizona and Idaho that are hiding behind the veil of "religious freedom" in an attempt to create a two-tiered society based on sexual orientation.

How anybody could use "religious freedom" to infringe on the "freedom" of another leads me to believe they probably don't understand the teachings of their own religion. These are not the terrorists of radical Islam, who put the misunderstood idea of "Jihad" above the peaceful teachings of the prophet Muhammad, but understand they are just as misguided. These devouts are instead forgetting Jesus' teachings of forgiveness and acceptance because… Gays? Ew, icky.

But there does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel. A survey released today by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 32 percent in 2003, the year Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex unions.

The survey even showed that 58 percent of Roman Catholics support same-sex marriage, and while the Pope hasn't exactly come out as a Liberace fan, he has been far more progressive when it comes to LGBT issues, among other things.

Oh yeah, and Jason Collins' No. 98 Nets jersey is currently the top-seller on I guess that's pretty good too, and I would expect the NFL team that drafts Michael Sam to sell plenty of his jerseys as well.

So, the world is changing, though perhaps not as quickly as we'd hoped. To say that a player coming out as gay isn't a big deal simply isn't true yet, but with the continued class of Jason Collins, and the potentially stellar play of Michael Sam, athletes could soon see sexual preference as a non-issue.

Then, it will be on the rest of society to follow suit.

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