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The Boston Globe

Opinion

TOM KEANE

Breaking boundaries, but still indulging in gay stereotypes

Former Celtics player Jason Collins is getting a lot of attention for a much-hyped coming out. In the sports world, it doesn’t get bigger than the cover of “Sports Illustrated,” and that’s what Collins got, along with a lengthy, self-penned piece acknowledging his sexuality. Yep, Jason’s gay. But even as Collins supposedly liberates himself, he indulges in stereotypes that one would have thought were left behind decades ago. It’s being called a step forward, and it is, but it’s also a step back.

The big four professional men’s sports — baseball, football, hockey, and basketball — have never featured an openly gay active player, which is what makes Collins’s declaration significant. That announcement was the culmination of efforts in the works for a number of years, led in particular by former Baltimore Raven linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo — a straight player who has pushed the NFL to open up on gay-related issues. Indeed, Collins’s coming out is expected to be the first of many among professional athletes. Gay men, it turns out, can do sports as well as they can do hair.

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