This morning Sports Illustrated hit newsstands in the US with a cover story on Jason Collins becaming the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out.
Immediate reaction to the piece recognised the announcement as a significant watershed in professional sport, with some referring to him as a modern day Jackie Robinson — although New Republic pulled up a step short of the comparison.
My immediate reaction was one shared by what I would assume to be most people’s in that I was rapt that a professional athlete had shown the courage to come out.
My secondary reaction, having seen a bit of Collins play this year while he was with the Celtics, was one of cynicism, akin to that expressed by Nate Silver in his FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times:
“My concern is that if no team signs Mr. Collins, it may incorrectly be deemed as a referendum on whether the league is willing to employ an openly gay player — when players in Mr. Collins’s position see their N.B.A. careers end fairly often for all sorts of reasons. Alternatively, if a team does sign him, it may be incorrectly dismissed as a publicity stunt — when 7-footers who can provide some rebounding and defense off the bench often play well into their thirties.”
This cynicism was compounded in that as a ‘spin doctor’ my following thoughts were around the timing of the announcement, reflected in this Outsports piece by Cyd Zeigler:
“We’ve said for years that the best timing for this announcement would be early in the offseason. Just two weeks after his regular season ended, and six months before the season starts, it couldn’t be a better time to do this. The media will get the story out its system before tip-off of the next season.”
But it was Grantland’s Brian Phillips who was able to snap me out of my ‘complex metanarrative’ and cut to the heart of the matter: