Trending right now is the news that Jason Collins just announced he is gay. Let’s also take a look at who Jason Collins is besides being gay, so he’s not just the “NBA player who came out.” I’ve pulled some choice quotes from his excellent SI article. There’s a lot to this story, like why is it that America that didn’t react much to college baller and WNBA star Brittney Griner coming out earlier this month, supportive tweets from NBA stars, and yet another ESPN talking head sticking his foot in his mouth, so this is just a start.
And in case you’re not a diehard hoops fan who knows every play on the end of the Celtics bench, let’s start with a quick primer too:
1. Jason Collins is your average NBA player. You probably hadn’t heard about who he was until today, and probably had to use Wikipedia at some point to find out why its relevant he’s gay. Actually if you did, just skip to #2. He’s an NBA “journeyman,” he’s played on a bunch teams, most recently in Boston and Washington. He’s also got a twin brother who also played in the NBA, Jarron Collins. He went to Stanford.
2. He will march for gay rights: “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding.”
3. He felt coming out was hard and was pretty deep in the closet: “No one wants to live in fear… It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.”
4. He’s Christian and doesn’t see any contradiction about being gay and Christian: “My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”
5. He’s a “tough guy” and gay, deal with it: “I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay? But I’ve always been an aggressive player, even in high school.”
6. He doesn’t like other people deciding who he can and can’t marry: “Less then three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn’t say a thing.”
7. He thinks straight allies matter: “I’m impressed with the straight pro athletes who have spoken up so far — Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo. The more people who speak out, the better, gay or straight.”
8. He’s ready to fight: “I’m a veteran, and I’ve earned the right to be heard. I’ll lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones. I’m not the loudest person in the room, but I’ll speak up when something isn’t right. And try to make everyone laugh.”
9. He didn’t “choose” to be gay: “I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road… Still, if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.”
10. Like a lot of Americans, he’s unemployed and looking for a job. But really, being Jason Collins is already a cool gig. “I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer.”