Cheers to Jason Collins and Brittney Griner...
And Jeers to Mark Jackson

May 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Cheers to Jason Collins—a pro basketball player who last week co-wrote a Sports Illustrated article that began, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." Collins is the first man still active in a major U.S. sport to publicly come out as gay.

Collins wrote of the years he had suppressed and hidden his identity, and the toll this had taken on him. "No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. ... The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Less then three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn't say a thing."

Enthusiastic support for Collins was immediately expressed by other current and former NBA players, including Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis, and Steve Nash. John Carlos, who raised his clenched, gloved fist as a salute to the Black Liberation movement when he was on the medal podium in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, told a reporter, "I have so much respect for Jason Collins because he is telling the world that he is proud of who he is. He's telling the world, 'This is who I am. Deal with it.' That's real courage. I support him to the utmost!"

Jason Collins is a powerful, 7-foot-tall man who has made his living for 12 years in the bruising, highly competitive environment of the NBA. Collins wrote that he "goes against the stereotype" many people have of gay men. Collins' "coming out" also confronts and challenges the suffocating "traditional values" of "male bonding" that infuse men's sports under this system. The men's locker room is a long-standing fortress of homophobia, woman-hating, and other reactionary values that serve to justify and reinforce an oppressive system.

And sure enough, ESPN, the major all-sports TV network, trotted out one of its main basketball announcers, Chris Broussard, to denounce Jason Collins and fight for those reactionary values. Broussard said Collins is "walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ." In a subsequent radio interview, Broussard cited several books of the Bible as his authorities on the "sinfulness" of homosexuality. ESPN expressed "regret" for Broussard's ignorant and hateful statements, but never retracted or apologized for them.

Cheers also goes out to Brittney Griner—widely regarded as on her way to being the best player ever in women's basketball—who said that she is gay after she was picked first in the 2013 draft of the WNBA. Griner, who recently graduated from Baylor University, told a reporter, "I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality. It wasn't hard at all. If I can show that I'm out and I'm fine, then hopefully the younger generation will feel the same way."

Griner is not the first woman pro athlete to announce publicly that she is gay. Martina Navratilova, Megan Rapenoe, Chamique Holdsclaw, and others had previously done so. Her announcement was not greeted with the attention that Jason Collins got—but that in itself is an indication, and condemnation, of the second-class status of women's sports in the U.S., and the hateful stereotypes about women athletes common in this patriarchal society.

Griner wrote an article in the New York Times in which she poignantly described the torment she has been subjected to since she was a young girl, and continues to receive. "People called me a dude and said there was no way I could be a woman. Some even wanted me to prove it to them. During high school and college, when we traveled for games, people would shout the same things while also using racial epithets and terrible homophobic slurs. (That's nothing compared with the horrendous things people call me online today—if you don't believe me, look at the comments about me on Twitter and Instagram.)

"No one deserves to go through that type of abuse. When I was young, I put on a face as if it didn't hurt, but it's painful to be called hateful names and made fun of because people thought my feet were huge or that I looked like a guy. It was hard to hear antigay slurs under their breath whenever I walked by them."

Kudos to Jason Collins and Brittney Griner—for boldly confronting backward, repressive values and ideas, for shattering stereotypes, and for sustaining their passion for the poetry and beauty of basketball in the face of all the backward, hateful prejudices they have encountered and overcome.


Jeers to Mark Jackson, coach of the NBA Golden State Warriors. When asked in a playoff post-game TV interview why his team turned the ball over 10 times in the fourth quarter, he said, "Nothing but God. Nobody wants to hear it. Nothing but God."

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