Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Jason Collins

In case you've missed the last several days of news, NBA center Jason Collins has become the first major sport athlete to come out of the closet during his pro career.

To be honest, I have been disappointed by the manosphere's coverage of this story. Many seem to think that the popular media is trying to promote a pro-gay or pro-woman agenda at the expense of men. Are they? I don't know. But focusing on this peripheral issue obfuscates the real question of whether a pro athlete coming out is a generally positive thing for humanity. I believe it is.

The average person doesn't understand the level of talent, drive, and concentration required to be a professional athlete. The job is a grind. You're traveling thousands of miles a week, being watched by tens of thousands of people a night, living in hotels, playing high-stress games, and answering to idiot writers whenever you screw up. It's pretty incredible that Collins has been able to focus on his career while carrying such a large secret under potentially hostile conditions. Many professional athletes have said they would not want to play with a gay teammate. Furthermore, the majority of NBA players are Black, part of a culture not known for being especially accepting of homosexuality.

I've seen scores of snarky tweets about how this is going to make money for Collins, make him more famous, get him speaking engagements, and essentially make the fortune of an otherwise unremarkable player. Is there a potential for material gain for Jason Collins? Sure. But much of this commentary about ulterior motives ignores the following:

Jason Collins has made $33 million dollars in his career.

I would bet that there have been many other closeted gay athletes who had exponentially more to gain than Collins by coming out publicly (or even FALSIFYING their sexual orientation to get a big payday). If the payoffs are so huge and the media's "bias" facilitates this type of revelation, then why hasn't a single one taken advantage of these powerful incentives by doing something so easy? 

Because it isn't easy.

Most high-end manosphere writers are fairly well-educated, and because many were raised in the "liberal" and "tolerant" environments they (often justifiably) rail against, I think they tend to underrate the daily discrimination faced by gays in our society. There are still wide swaths of America where people live a lie in fear of losing their jobs, being physically assaulted, being disowned by their family, etc. only because of their sexual orientation. If Jason Collins's actions make a dent in that reality, it seems like splitting hairs to call this anything but a positive for our country.

Do I think this is on the same scale as Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, which some in the media are comparing it to? No. But it's an important moment in our culture. People will accuse me of being a "liberal" or a "SWPL," but in today's world of sound bites and clichés I give the guy a lot of credit for facing a contentious issue that has ramifications both in and out of sports.

Collins coming out is an important step in fostering an environment where people are judged by what they contribute and what they create, rather than what they do in the bedroom. 

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