Going into the weekend, the big storylines of the week included Dwight Howard‘s first trip back to L.A., the trade deadline, Russell Westbrook‘s return and LeBron James‘ broken nose. All worthy topics of discussion for the intents and purposes of this column . .. until Sunday.
When in Los Angeles, Jason Collins received a much warmer welcome than Dwight last week, an ovation of sorts as he became the first openly gay player to play in one of the four major male U.S. sports.
Easily the most-talked about 10-day contract of all time, Collins signed with the Brooklyn Nets Sunday as Mizzou’s Michael Sam, likely the first openly gay NFL player, is in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine running, lifting, and jumping for scouts in anticipation of this spring’s draft. Progress, yes?
But at the end of the day (or really, 10 days), why does this even matter?
I’d argue that in a perfect world, it doesn’t. These are two athletes in very different places in their careers, in two sports that view their future potential in completely different ways. And where they decide to put their dicks in their free time doesn’t factor into any of that.
But you already knew that.
I don’t think the two can be easily compared. Michael Sam chose to come out at one of the most important times in his career as a football player. Jason Collins doesn’t serve as a great pulse of progress due to his declining value in the NBA. Sam had already come out to his teammates and coaches, giving him a support system that Collins didn’t have right away. But what they both have in common is their courage to challenge the status quo – how we view what gay looks like when it comes to masculinity, athleticism, and the sports stars we love to watch but sense a strange need to keep in a neat, tidy box of our creation.
Collins wasn’t the only gay player that played in the NBA last weekend. He’s just the only one we know about. But trust, those players were definitely looking to see how other players reacted and how the media covered Collins’ debut (which, was a little extra, but then again, here I am writing about it).
But hopefully, with Collins, Sam and others, it will encourage QUALITY dialogue that moves the ball forward (NPI) and eventually, to no dialogue at all.
(Looks at ESPN’s “N-Word” special, the status of women in sports, and unpaid college players.)
It’s fine, I’ll wait.