Jason Collins Breaks Barriers as the Gay Community’s Jackie Robinson


Jason Collins Breaks Barriers as the Gay Community's Jackie Robinson

Stop what your doing and watch this video.

For gays, things may seem rough and a little disheartening at times. Another state paves the way for marriage equality, and then Arizona tinkers with allowing open discrimination against us. If that isn’t bad enough, it seems downright open season on our queer brethren in Uganda. Though these continued setbacks makes it easy to lose faith at times, the equality needle certainly is moving in our favor, and after Michael Sam’s recent coming out it looks like the world of professional sports is one of the most-watched platforms for change.

The latest athlete to help move the needle is Jason Collins. After the ending of last year’s NBA season, Collins publicly came out as gay. At the same time, Collins became a free agent and didn’t play professionally again. That is, until last Sunday.

The clip featured above shows him entering the court as a player for the Brooklyn Nets, and even the announcer was positively excited at the historical moment unfolding before him. Stepping into play, he became the first openly gay male to play in any of the four professional sports in North America.


As you can see, he was greeted warmly by the crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and with many on their feet to cheer Collins on. He was scoreless and his debut lasted a mere 11 minutes, but that hardly mattered.

It’s been 67 years since Jackie Robinson braved a torrent of racial taunts to become the first African-American player to cross the color line in baseball, and though Collins’s entry into professional sports was not as dangerous as Robinson’s (Robinson was hit with fastballs a staggering 72 times while at bat), Collins’s moment is no less courageous, and certainly no less historic.

Not only did he break one of the last barriers for equality and representation, he did it with dignity and a quiet modesty that should be a lesson to us all.

For years, playing for one team or another, Collins wore the number 98 on his jersey, in a silent tribute to Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998. Collins told Sports Illustrated:


“My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I’ve struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.”

For Collins, the next seven days are monumental. Starting last Sunday, he was only able to garner a 10-day contract with Brooklyn. I wish him well this week. And if Brooklyn were smart, they’d realize what a player they have on their hands, for the man is a class act to be sure.

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