University of Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon announced to the public on Wednesday — after telling his parents and teammates — that he is a gay man, becoming the first gay male NCAA basketball player.
“I know what it’s like to cry yourself to sleep or ‘have a girlfriend’ when that’s not your girlfriend, just to try and impress your friends,” Gordon said in video published by Outsports on the day of his announcement. “Nobody should have to try to live like that.”
Though his opening up to his teammates was by all accounts positive, the road there appears to have been rough for Gordon. Continue reading →
Free-agent NBA center Jason Collins. Image via freddyo.com
Welts’ combination of optimism and apprehension is shared by many others around the league who are rooting for Collins, but recognize the forces working against him. They list any number of factors, some unique to his identity as the only openly gay free agent, others products of circumstance.As the league gets stretchier — with some teams employing as few as four conventional big men — fewer NBA jobs remain for a center whose primary on-court asset is interior defense. Many teams prefer to take fliers on younger prospects whose contracts can be discarded on Jan. 10, when the vets’ phones start to ring. For their part, the Warriors have stockpiled centers. They have Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Ognjen Kuzmic, Jermaine O’Neal and Dewayne Dedmon all under contract.
“The reality for our team is that we are really deep at the center position — there’s not a roster spot available,” Welts says.
League trends aside, nearly a dozen execs say privately that the media glare that would come with a Collins signing just isn’t worth the distraction to most teams. Locker rooms are fragile places already and not always receptive to change, and though NBA players as a whole are extremely professional with the media, it’s not their favorite half hour of the day. The easier it is, the better. If he were a rotation player or better, the thinking goes, the cost/benefit analysis might produce a different outcome.
In other words, the market for Collins would be bigger if he weren’t openly gay.
Those who follow this weekly post know that we just don’t crush out about people here; we’ve been known to show massive love to things like photographs around here. This week’s Crush is along that line.
NBA center Jason Collins in an April 29 interview with ABC News.
The statement from ESPN on Tuesday was predictably, almost disappointingly dry, given what prompted it. After willingly being the media equivalent of the person at somebody else’s celebration who tries to upstage the host’s announcement, this is what the network had to say for itself:
We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.
If you missed it, here’s what that “respectful discussion” about Collins public declaration of his sexuality, making him the first active gay player in one of the country’s more lucrative/”major” sports leagues turned into:
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
This is the first time a current athlete in any US major sport has come out of the closet. If you remember, former professional soccer player Robbie Rogers came out, but only after he retired abruptly earlier this year. And across the pond, a professional rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out in 2009. It’s about time the States followed suit.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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