The Washington Wizards had a forgettable season on the court. They had one of the worst starts in the history of the NBA and posted a league-worst offensive rating. They limped to the finish line, losing six in a row after a semi-enticing run with John Wall back on the court. They comically fought for the 9 seed while simultaneously shutting down what seemed like every player with any likely future ties to the team. The 2013 on-court Wizards will likely never be talked about again. The 2013 Washington Wizards mean a little something more now and it has nothing do with anything that happened in a packed arena. We’ll always have the 47 point game from John Wall, but in the grand scheme,that doesn’t matter. Certain aspects of life are much more important than career nights or historically bad seasons.
Jason Collins is the first active gay player in the NBA. I can’t say I saw that coming, but I can say I don’t much care. Before Jason Collins is a gay man he is a basketball player. Before he is a basketball player he is a human, just like you or me. I am beyond excited that he has found the peace within himself to publicly address his sexuality. Here’s to hoping that Collins will serve as a beacon for similarly oriented individuals who struggle with the feeling of letting someone down, embarrassing themselves or their family, or being bullied – feelings I have never experienced and can only imagine.
There’s no reason to feel like being gay is letting someone down; there’s no reason to feel like being gay is embarrassing; there’s no reason to be bullied for being gay. Step one in moving past sexual orientation as a topic at all is to de-stigmatize it. Jason Collins is the first openly gay NBA player and that matters because it will soon not be considered meaningful at all to be a gay NBA player, or a gay politician, or a gay anything. And for the NBA and macho athletes, it started with Jason Collins – 2013 Washington Wizard, lifetime model human being.
I find an odd sense of pride in what Jason Collins did yesterday. I found the same sense of pride when Frank Ocean came out in a similarly combative environment just last year. I’m proud because these individuals are advancing the discourse on civil rights in way I never could. All men and women are created equal but they don’t all receive equal treatment. Equal treatment is garnered from stances taken by figures like Jason Collins. He may not be an NBA star, but he’s been around the league. If you don’t know him, you know someone who did. And no one has anything less than glowing to say about him. If that isn’t the perfect case for equality, I don’t know what is. Jason Collins is just like anyone else and deserves to be treated as such.
Here’s to equality for all.