It’s been a week since itinerant and articulate NBA center and former Celtic Jason Collins became the first active professional athlete in one of the four major North American team sports to reveal he was gay. It was a milestone moment, but also a reminder of how far the artificial world of sports is behind the real world in accepting homosexuality.
Collins is out of the closet, but it’s the insular macho culture of major professional sports that needs to come out of the dark and into the light.
Major male professional sports are one of the last — and most visible — places in society where homosexuality is so taboo that, until Collins, its existence couldn’t even be publicly acknowledged. This wasn’t don’t ask, don’t tell. It was just don’t tell or tell a lie to make your teammates and employers feel comfortable.
Sports often have been at the vanguard of or in lockstep with shifting societal attitudes. This was true of race and gender. Now, it’s evolving American cultural mores that are dragging the sports world inexorably toward progress and not the other way around.
Jackie Robinson became the first African-American baseball player in 1947. That was 17 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. His grace and ability helped dispel and dispute long-held prejudices about African-American capabilities in relation to whites.
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