Posts Tagged ‘Jason Collins’

One Man Out in a Nation of Intolerance

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

jason-collins-comes-out1By Bob Gaydos

When Jason Collins revealed earlier this week that he is gay, it was widely hailed as the first time a male athlete who was still actively playing in one of the four major professional sports leagues had revealed his homosexuality. A watershed moment. And it is, if not quite the watershed as has been described.

Collins, 34, made his announcement in a Sports Illustrated article that appeared on the Internet after the season had ended for his team, the Washington Wizards. An athlete of modest talents and tremendous character, Collins is a free agent now, meaning he has no contract with any team and is free to sign with anyone who wants him. That creates an interesting scenario for next year in the NBA. Collins says he wants to keep playing basketball. Will some NBA team oblige? Will his open homosexuality be welcomed as an asset by some progressive team owner, along with his 7-foot height and “team player’’ reputation, or will Collins be shunned and wind up, in effect, like other male athletes who have come out only when their careers were over?

Make no mistake, given the homophobia that dominates locker rooms in male sports, his simple declaration is at once matter-of-fact and bold. The overwhelmingly encouraging response to his statement, especially among his NBA peers and other pro athletes, attests to the respect with which Collins is perceived as well as to the fact that this country is, albeit slowly and torturously, turning a corner on yet another moral issue. For those reasons, barring injury, I think Collins will wind up with a contract in the NBA next year and become the perfect role model he has been called in stories announcing his decision to stop living a life of lies.

But this is just the beginning of what is likely at times to be an ugly, hateful path to acceptance. The truth is, this “melting pot” of a country does not handle “different” well. Whether it be skin color, religion, nationality, language, country of origin, gender, age, sexual preference or even food choice, many Americans speak and act today as if liberty, justice and equality are rights granted solely to them and their ilk because, well, because they say so and that’s all they need to know. So please, do not bother them with the facts and save your moralizing for your socialist, atheist friends. (Put political views on that list as well.)

I ascribe this harsh reaction to “different” to fear and ignorance, the bellwethers of the tea party faithful who have cowed the Republican Party into submission. Greed, too. Many people, I believe, are afraid that they are going to lose something they perceive as rightfully theirs if someone else of a different race or nationality or religious belief or country of origin or sexual orientation, or, in the case of many men, of a different gender, is afforded the same opportunities as them. Sharing is not an option, whatever their religion preaches. (Put economic status on the list, too.)

Despite our pumped-up national pride and high-minded ideals, we do not always practice what we preach. We have, in fact, become a nation in which angry, self-righteous, holier-than-thou and, sometimes, just plain dumb people dominate national debate because of the vehemence with which they express their views and the money they are willing to spend brow-beating the rest of us. Loud is good. Louder is better. Nasty is good. Insulting is better. Facts are bad. Phony TV ads are good. Compassion is for the weak. Guns are the answer.

The Jason Collins story is definitely a positive one about wider acceptance for people simply for who they are. He is 7 feet tall, black and gay. He went to Stanford and plays basketball. Young gay men who play sports, or not, may be more likely to follow their dreams because of him and less likely to be fearful, secretive and easily bullied. It’s a start.

But this is not a simple feel-good story. Collins has a twin brother who also played in the NBA and who says he didn’t know his brother was gay until the rest of the world found out. That’s sad. And it’s sad that Collins felt the need to hide his homosexuality even from himself for so long because a lot of people in this country are so busy minding everyone else’s business and deciding what is right and wrong. I personally don’t think they are a majority, but they are a persistent, aggressive minority.

That means those of us who disagree with them must shed the comfortability of basking in our own, self-assured sense of enlightenment and do battle with the forces of hate and ignorance. That means speaking out against all forms of injustice and exploitation, insisting on laws that protect individual rights, not corporate profits, and electing representatives who will pass those laws. It means exposing bullies for what they are, punishing those who see violence as a means to their ends, insisting on helping the disadvantaged (as our duty, not their entitlement), and not letting fear or weariness prevent us from exposing fraud and simple prejudice.

It also means telling those who would tell others they see as “different” to get over it. Mind your own business. Live your own lives. A gay man in a locker room? They’ve been there for decades. Also in Army barracks. They just had to hide it because of institutional ignorance and bias. Again, this is changing, if slowly, in America. Tolerance is a bitch. It requires one to simply accept another person for what he or she is, in toto, without insisting that person change or agree with one’s particular set of “rules.” It can be uncomfortable, but so long as the person represents no real (not perceived) danger to one’s well-being, there should be only one rule to apply to everyone: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” There’s a reason it’s called the Golden Rule.




Limbaugh Annoyed

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

I acknowledge that a while back I vowed no more columns about Limbaugh. Enough was enough of this thumping blowhard, such as when he called Sandra Fluke a “slut” because she testified before a congressional committee that contraceptives ought to be part of basic health care. Later, he apologized, apparently in the belief that saying the words – I’m sorry – relieves you of the onus of having caused terrible pain in the first place.

A quick non sequitur here: In his “apology” to Fluke, Limbaugh, who referred to her on the air as a “slut,” a “prostitute,” and someone who wishes to be paid for having sex, declared, “I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.” If that wasn’t a personal attack, what was it?

Remember back in the Eighties when he called President Carter’s daughter Amy the ugliest presidential child? Then he apologized. Years later he referred to Chelsea Clinton as the official White House dog. Then he apologized.

And do you remember that it was Limbaugh who slandered about half the American population when he referred to feminists as feminazis? Wait, actually I don’t think he ever apologized for that, and his use of the word hangs from him like rotting carrion.

Limbaugh has a way of opening his mouth and revealing an unbelievable degree of ignorance and cruelty, and I feel compelled to withdraw my No-More-Limbaugh vow and write about his latest pollution of the air.

Nowadays, he is distressed about the amount of ink and time being given to Jason Collins – the center of the Washington Wizards team of the National Basketball Association – following Collins’ outing himself as gay. (This distress from someone who spent parts of three shows on the air attacking Sandra Fluke.) As far as most people can recall, Collins is the first American active male pro athlete to declare his homosexuality.

Collins comes at an astounding time in the history of our nation, a time when nine states allow unrestricted gay marriage, when men marrying men and women marrying women get space in The New York Times wedding announcements in the Sunday edition, and when survey after survey finds surprisingly large segments of Americans don’t give a hoot in hell about the sexual orientation of movie stars, athletes, or the guy standing next to them on the subway.

So Collins came out and of course editors and reporters jumped on the story. That’s what they’re supposed to do. This was a culture change. With the understanding that surely there are more gay men playing in the professional leagues of American sports, President Obama sent a positive message about Collins. So did Bill Clinton. So did David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA. So did every fair-minded person in the country.

And then, along came Limbaugh who had just about as much as he could stand about Jason Collins, even if the story involves one of the more victimized groups of people.

Limbaugh got all huffy because, he says, there’s a lack of tolerance for – are you ready for this? – people who are opposed to the very existence of gay men and women. All this coverage makes them look bad. But I haven’t heard of any such attacks.

Have you?

Poor, misunderstood Limbaugh suggested that he is a victim. “Why can’t everyone just put your sexual preferences on Facebook and call it a day?” he asked in a story about Collins in Sports Illustrated. Expand that argument and you have someone asking if it was really necessary for us to celebrate or mourn people like Rosa Parks, Matthew Shepard, Jackie Robinson, Sonia Sotomayor.

Limbaugh complained, “If you want to say you’re gay, fine, but does it have to be rammed down everyone’s throats all the time?”

I know of no such ramming.