What's Next For Jason Collins?

Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in baseball, Wendell Scott broke the colour barrier in NASCAR and Earl Lloyd broke the colour barrier in the NBA. In days where racism no longer effects the professional sporting world and sexism has depleted and allowed separate professional sporting leagues for females, there is rarely a barrier left to break in professional sporting words. And now there is one fewer.  Jason Collins has emerged as the first active player in any of the four major sporting leagues in North America to declare and publicly state being gay.

Collins, a centre in the NBA, began this season with the Boston Celtics and has joined Bradley Beal and John Wall on the Washington Wizards. He has played in the league for thirteen years and been a good big man for most of them. Collins told Sports Illustrated, “I kept telling myself the sky was red but I always knew it was blue.” For eleven years he kept it secret for fear of it affecting his career. So what exactly does this mean for Jason Collins from here on out?

The amount of support from players in the NBA astounds me. My man Kobe Bryant was first to jump on Twitter and send a message of support;  “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others”.

Lakers teammate and fellow NBA veteran Steve Nash tweeted, ‘The time has come. Maximum respect. I am so proud of @jasoncollins34 for being real.”

Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets, whose mother is in a same sex marriage, also tweeted, “Wow this is amazing, all smiles… So So happy Jason Collins came out and announced he was openly gay.”

It is incredible to see such overwhelming support from players in the same league.

We live in a world where homosexuality is gradually being publicly accepted. But in the sporting world, it is rare for a homosexual player to come out. Why? In this day and age, sporting leagues are so diverse that it no longer matters if you’re black, white, male, female, gay or straight; if you can play at an elite level, you will play. NBA Commissioner, David Stern, announced; “The question in the NBA is ‘Have you got game?”  That’s it, end of inquiry.  Gay marriage is being legally embraced around the world and homophobia is become less of a disgusting virus more and more each day.

So what took Jason Collins so long?

Simply put, he was waiting for somebody like him; somebody to stand up for those just like him who was afraid to speak up. In his first person account with Sports Illustrated, Collins said, “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand saying he’s different. If I had my way, somebody else would have done it before me. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.” Collins may be the first, but he sure as hell won’t be the last – especially with what’s in store for Collins.

To be clear, I am not implying Collins did this for money. I am actually incredibly proud of Collins for making the NBA, a league I love so much, that little bit more diverse. But the face is there is certainly rewards to reap for Collins. First, there was the huge amount of support and respect from the media, teammates and officials alike. That’s one thing. But as Mark Cuban stated, “From a marketing perspective, if you happen to be gay and you want to be rich, you should come out because it would be the best thing that ever happened to you from a marketing and endorsement perspective”. Collins has the opportunity to become a role model in the LGBT community and the first sporting role model at that. Collins is already a Nike athlete and Nike has expressed their support and pride to have him on board with their brand. All that is next is to continue his NBA career. And as a free-agent this year, his high profile, NBA experience, size and ball skills will guarantee him a contract, regardless of his sexuality.

So congratulations, Jason Collins, and congratulations to the NBA and its fans for being so incredibly respectful and proud of one of your own. It is a great day in sporting history, that is for sure.

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