Ah, what a historic day in North American sports.
The above quote, from You Can Play’s Patrick Burke, says it all. Months after he announced something that has become a normalcy amongst most groups of people except athletes, centre Jason Collins was finally signed to a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
Now, for those of you who don’t follow sports, someone coming out publicly probably doesn’t seem to be a huge deal. Well, in sports, it is.
You can count your fingers to keep track of how many openly gay athletes there are in the four major sports: one.
That man is Jason Collins.
*Robbie Rogers, playing soccer here in North America, has also come out, though the MLS isn’t considered a major sport (for some reason.)
In 11 minutes of action tonight, the seven-foot-tall Collins pulled down two rebounds, holding the record for most rebounds collected by an openly gay NBA player.
Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.
The Nets are trailblazers here (not Portland). They are the first team to sit there and say, “this man, sexual orientations aside, might help our team win.
“Let’s sign him.”
So they did. Not to say that other teams had a problem with it, but the Nets were the first to act. It shows that not only the Nets but most likely other teams are perfectly fine with having an openly gay player, and that it’s really not a big deal.
Some may speculate that he wasn’t signed because of his sexual orientation: I can say with confidence that it was most likely not the primary concern of other teams. He’s 35, slowing down and has never averaged more than six points per game in a season. You may assume it’s because he is gay, but it’s most likely because there are simply better players out there.
But don’t let that overshadow this important milestone in North American sports. This is great news for future athletes afraid to be scrutinized for simply being themselves. In the words of the aforementioned Patrick Burke:
“If you can play, you can play.”
Remember this day, and this post, as a step in the right direction not only for sports, but for general tolerance of others.