Jason Collins coming out as gay is on the cover of Sports Illustrated as big news. I know this because all the talking heads in the media tell us that. They also tell us that anyone who says, “Who cares?” is a homophobe.
I am being told that he is the first “active” player to come out publicly, even though he is a free agent and was unlikely to get picked up next year.
The fact that scores of female athletes and several European and international athletes are out of the closet is ignored because Collins plays for one of America’s big four sports. Other American males came out after they officially retired or it was known in the locker room but not announced to the media. There is so much hype and push for a great narrative in the media that I believe many issues are getting lost in the hoopla.
With that said, let me congratulate Collins on coming out so he can openly be who he is with no shame. Being who you are takes great personal courage. The relief he must feel with his friends and family has to be immense.
But for me personally, I do not care about Collins’ sexuality, and neither should you. Rather, I care that Collins is a good person, son, brother and teammate. That is all that really matters.
That is what conservatives mean when we talk about the need to move past affirmative action and identity politics. Collins’ character, work ethic and ability are the only factors that should matter in his professional and personal life, not the categories and labels he can check off on some form.
I see many people attacked for this viewpoint, accused of homophobia and greedily absorbing any gossip about other athletes’ sex lives. This intolerance confuses indifference for bigotry.
Sports Illustrated and Collins do not approach the article as a story about a man that happens to be gay, therefore acknowledging that there is real no difference between him and his twin brother. Rather, the article begins with the following statement: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m Black. And I’m gay.”
To me, this speaks to identity politics and the need to define ourselves. By defining ourselves, we are locked into a role and become a representative of its associated ideologues. It also tells others not only how we see ourselves, but how they are supposed to see us.
We could all see he is Black; we could not see that he is gay. Why the need to reference his race?
When people ask me who I am, I do not answer, “I’m a businessman, conservative commentator and Black.” What I do is not wrapped up in the color of my skin. Who I am is not about my profession and ethnicity.
Collins is a 34-year-old NBA center. Think about the imagery that immediately creates in your head. He is athletic, tall and on the down side of his career. Most people, even NBA fans, probably did not know Collins until this week, so we also know that he was not a star.
Collins is Black. What imagery does that bring to mind? Does that change your thinking about his being an NBA center? If you did not see a picture of him, would you have assumed he is Black because he plays professional basketball?
Now add that he is gay.
I think it is safe to say everyone assumes there are plenty of gay professional athletes. We know being gay does not take away from his abilities as an athlete, nor add anything. For those who only care if Collins plays well, hits his shots and sets his picks, this is the “who cares?” moment. To most of these people, Collins’ personal life means as much to them as Tom Brady’s, in that it does not. Just because the media makes Brady’s life into a celebrity feeding frenzy at times does not mean that most hardcore sports fans care.
However, the casual fan does. And I think it is the casual fan that this actually speaks to more, and I think we need to be aware of that and acknowledge the importance of Collins’ decision to the general public and the gay community.
Collins went from being a player with a few fans to hundreds of thousands in a flash. His Twitter subscribers alone jumped from 4,000 to over 100,000 in a day. Most of his new fans only like him because of this announcement. To me, that is as absurd as liking a person only based on the color of their skin. But be that as it may, Collins is now the spokesman for gay athletes in America–past, present and future.
Not only that, he will be exploited. Several weeks ago, Mark Cuban said he would gladly sign the first openly gay player. So is Collins going to be signed because his skills or because he is now an icon? That and everything else will be questioned: playing time, performance, reactions from other players when he delivers a hard foul, etc. And now that he has made his private life public, it will be exploited for gossip: Who is he dating, is he marching in this parade, is he properly representing the gay community? Hopefully, Collins has the fortitude to stand up under this intense scrutiny.
Regardless, I still do not care who Collins has sex with … and neither should you.
Armstrong Williams is the author of the brand-new book “Reawakening Virtues.” More content can be found on RightSideWire.com. Come join the discussion live 4-5, 6-8 p.m. EST at www.livestream.com/armstrongwilliams or tune in 4-5 p.m. EST on S.C. WGCV, Sirius/XM Power 128, 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. EST. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.