Eliminating claustrophobia from professional sports took a new turn on Monday morning, when longtime NBA center Jason Collins played straight by announcing to the world he is gay.
Collins’ announcement got sports lovers in frenzy as he became the first active male professional athlete in any of the four major sports in the US to do so.
For a long time, even decades, one major fear for active professionals who are either bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender/transsexual is the possible reaction from their peers and even their fan base if they should publically reveal their ‘sexual orientation.’
Many in the States consider Collins’ decision to have been the right step towards liberty, judging from the numbers of his supporters after making the announcement.
Former President Bill Clinton responded to the Washington Wizards center’s decision saying:
“I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LBGT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender) community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”
Another outspoken sportsman Kobe Bryant was full of praise for the NBA veteran who now ranks among the openly gay professional athletes. A statement from Collins’ team, the Washington Wizards was similar to President Clinton’s as fans and lovers of sports around the US reacted in varying tones to Collins’ decision.
“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation,” the statement from the Washington Wizards reads.
In most parts of the US the LBGT community is very active and increasing in the numbers of states passing legislations to legalise Gay right. Unlike in the past, President Obama’s support for gay marriage on his campaign trail, on his way to re- election, had no negative effect on the outcome of the 2012 November elections. This goes a long way to indicate how ‘liberal’ the American socio- political climate had transformed over the decades.
With issues such as gay marriage on the front burner of presidential reforms, Collins’ announcement is viewed by a reasonable number of Americans as a step towards eliminating claustrophobia from professional sports.
In Africa, tradition, custom and believe are three factors which have suppressed the Gay movement from making an impact in the poverty ridden continent. South Africa is the only country in the continent where there are openly gay couples. A bill that was thrashed by Nigerian Legislators sometime in 2012, after a group of lawyers who called themselves gay- right activist, stormed the National Assembly’s Headquarter in Abuja.
However, the late Nigerian born footballer Justin Fashanu who played for a variety of clubs in England before relocating to the States became the first and only English professional footballer to be openly homosexual. He was known by his early clubs to be gay, and came out to the press later in his career. Fashanu also became the first black footballer to command a £1 million transfer fee, with his transfer from Norwich city to Nottingham Forest in 1981. He ended up committing suicide in May of 1998 after moving to the United States.
In the case of Jason Collins, a few other sports lovers and professionals have opposed Collins’ choice. Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson responded by saying:
“As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”
Chris Broussard, an ESPN and NBA writer lent his voice to the cry against moral degradation and lost- full believes when he quoted in a statement that verse in the Bible which says, ‘You know them by their fruits.’ He went ahead to state critically he ‘would not characterise that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible characterised them as a Christian.’