NBA veteran Jason Collins shook the sports world yesterday, announcing he was gay in an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#all. Other athletes have come out of the closet after their playing days had ended, but Collins was the first active player to do so.
Everybody had something to say in regards to this announcement, the first of its kind but hopefully not the last. Aside from applauding Collins’ massive amount of courage, most media members also seemed to agree that ‘we’re better suited as a society to accept a gay athlete today than we would have been ten or fifteen years ago.’ Collins himself even said this in his article. While this point doesn’t diminish the omnipotence behind Collins’ declaration, I don’t agree with it.
Collins cited fear as the major reason for the prolonging of his admission to homosexuality. The fear of being able to still comfortably play the game that he loved; the fear that he wouldn’t be accepted in a society where being gay is not the norm and homosexual’s are detested by the non-accepting.
But hatred and resentment are not issues that go away with time, not dissonances present in 2003 and gone in 2013. Look around. Israel and Palestine are still fighting. The Boston Marathon bombings just caused us massive distress. There’s ongoing conflict all across the world, the same way there always has been and always will be.
What’s really different from ten or fifteen years ago is that we didn’t live in an age of total transparency, an age of “constantly refresh Twitter or Facebook whenever something newsworthy happens.” Now when someone makes that uncultured statement or types that ignorant tweet, the whole “Twitterverse” is down their throat immediately.
A la Mike Wallace. He later deleted this tweet, but don’t for a second think that this was his idea, or that his views on the topic of homosexuality changed in the hour after he posted it. Wallace happened to be this off-season’s big free agent winner and the beneficiary of a $60 million contract from the Miami Dolphins. Lucky for Wallace, that contract carried with it an agent, a publicist and Dolphins upper-management members with a lot more brain capacity than he was blessed with. They operated their best damage control drill in the moments following his complete ignorance, and that’s why he deleted his tweet and tried to swallow his words.
While Mike Wallace can apologize all he wants now, he said how he felt. Otherwise he wouldn’t have said it. To go ahead and delete the tweets, “deleting the evidence”, obviously at the behest of his higher-ups, was as pointless as it was cowardly. It’s already all over the Internet, I just posted a picture of these tweets that I didn’t get from his actual Twitter account. Might as well leave the statements up there and take responsibility for your actions.
As for Wallace, his image is forever tarnished in my eyes. Every time he catches a pass I’ll revert back to this tweet, the same way I’ll now always associate 49ers CB Chris Culver with the homophobic remarks he made at this past Superbowl’s Media Day. Just how Tim Hardaway’s name is permanently connected with the homophobic rant he went on in 2007: “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known.” Hardaway said. “I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.” Whenever I saw Hardaway in the stands cheering on his son, Tim Jr., during Michigan’s final four run this past March, wearing that stupid beanie halfway off his head, I cringed in disgust. These type of things stay with you.
But guys like Wallace, Culver or Hardaway tarnishing their reputations is not the main issue here. Anybody with the audacity to make these types of public statements are not meant to be public figures in the first place.
The issue is that there are plenty of other players who share this ignorance– they just realize stating these views publicly can cost them millions of dollars in potential earnings. And just because these athletes are keeping their thoughts to themselves doesn’t mean they’ll treat a gay player with the same respect as a straight player inside the locker room.
Reality is, we’re no better suited as a society to accept a gay athlete than we were 10 or 15 years ago. What we are, however, is more closely monitored in this age of social media. Hate and jealousy are instilled inside of us as humans. Social media can’t stop that. It can only encage the haters.