NBAs Jason Collins may have breached the last citadel of homophobia professional sport
In the last couple of days,Jason Collins has gone from being a relatively minor basketball player to one of the NBAs most discussed stars,primarily because of the unprecedented courage he displayed in becoming the first active professional sportsman in the USs four major leagues basketball,hockey,football and baseball to come out as gay. In an article in Sports Illustrated,Collins wrote,I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore,striking a blow for LGBT rights in the area of society that has proved most stubbornly resistant to evolving social norms.
In some ways,the story of Collinss coming out seems anachronistic. It is remarkable that it didnt happen sooner. But it is important to remember that though womens sports have a record of high-profile female athletes revealing themselves to be gay,for years,male pro-sports have been a place where overt machismo and a hyper-masculine construct of sexuality remained dominant. That locker rooms were unkind to any deviation from heterosexual norms was an oft-repeated trope. Silence seemed the only option,until Collins.
The resistance to open up is true of male pro-sports across the world,not just in the US. For instance,when English footballer Justin Fashanu came out as gay in 1990,he was subjected to scorn and lurid speculation. He later killed himself. Even today,European soccer is marred by public displays of homophobia. Collinss disclosure and the generally positive reaction to it should encourage other sportsmen to come out and dent the culture of silence.