Jason Collins is a basketball player. Period.
After having signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Collins is now the hottest topic in sports media because of his status as the first openly gay NBA player in history.
Collins has career averages of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, so you might understand that how the 35-year-old 7-footer could feel a little bit uneasy being the center of attention. Collins is, and always has been, a fringe NBA player — quite an anomaly for a player to lead the league in jersey sales.
To introduce the newest member of their (washed up) star-studded roster, the Brooklyn Nets set up a press conference for Collins to answer questions from the media.
Throughout the interview, it was clear that Collins wanted to discuss basketball — how he could bring defensive intensity, veteran leadership, rebounding and experience to the table. He was trying to speak of his hard work in breaking back into the league as a 35-year-old and his gratitude towards the organization for giving him the opportunity to prove himself.
And all anybody wanted to talk about was his sexual orientation.
He’s a mature, relaxed man, so he mostly laughed it off, but the disrespect shown by the reporters was disgusting.
One reporter asked, “You make history here this evening. What does that mean to you?”
“Right now, I’m focused on trying to learn the plays, trying to learn the coverages, the game plan, (the) assignment. I don’t have time to really think about history right now. I just have to, you know, focus on my job tonight,” Collins said.
Another reporter queried, “Do you feel like you need to be almost a crusader … ?”
“No. … I need to be a solid basketball player. Again, it’s about focusing on the task at hand,” Collins said.
He’s a basketball player trying to make it back into the league, not some savior for homosexuals.
It seems to me that the media espouses this view that gay athletes choose to stay in the closet because they are afraid of how their teammates will treat them or are frightened by the idea of fans heckling them based on their sexual preferences.
That certainly has a lot to do with it, but I feel that a lot of people neglect the fact that most athletes just want to make their money, play their sport, and live a life free of excessive media attention. Not everybody wants a spotlight on a very personal part of their lives and have the media discussing their lifestyle like preteen girls. Just because Collins is a gay basketball player doesn’t mean he wants to be a gay icon.
I mean, is it possible that having jersey sales ahead of superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin is a little bit embarrassing to him?
Collins doesn’t want to be “the first openly gay player in NBA history.” He wants to be a basketball player. Period.
It’s getting a little bothersome to hear the liberal media talk about how unimportant a person’s sexual orientation is, and then go on to define someone by the very thing they say doesn’t matter.
Gay people don’t want to be glorified. They want to be treated just like everybody else, and when we take a mediocre player (great person though) like Collins and make his re-entry into the NBA as an openly gay man a huge deal, we aren’t doing anyone any favors.
I admire this man quite a lot, not because he is the first openly gay NBA player ever, but because he takes his professionalism very seriously and emphasizes that he is in Brooklyn to play basketball, not change the world.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurphJamin