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Beware: Critics to come for Collins
Today, as we discuss Jason Collins’ courageous coming-out party, let us remember Newton’s third law of motion: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Tolerance is met with intolerance, fairness is mitigated by unfairness, intellectual evolution is thwarted by dogma.
Soon, much sooner than you think, there will be a last call for alcohol at the Jason Collins party, the kind words of support will quit pouring in and the forces of regression will pick apart his exquisitely crafted story, question his motives and loudly protest that the gay man’s seat at the table of equality will lead to the ruin of this great nation.
Where will you be when the lights come on, when it’s time to clean up and the real hard work of embracing the equality of people unlike you begins?
“It is critically important that Jason Collins be strongly and unequivocally supported!” Dr. Harry Edwards wrote to me in an email Monday afternoon. “There will be a flush of initial support, but that support must endure and grow stronger, because anti-gay sentiment has proven both its individual and institutional durability and staying power.
“With Jason Collins the challenge for the rest of us is not only the responsibility to stand up and be counted in support of a man, but in support of a fundamental principle: In America, freedom, justice and equality are rights, not ascribed privileges. We must get to the point that we consider his sexuality as legitimate a part of him as his height.”
Monday was great. Presidents Obama and Clinton voiced their support for Collins, a 12-year NBA journeyman. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal tweeted strong words of support. Commissioner David Stern issued an appropriate, heartwarming statement. Sports writers and broadcasters across the country joined the choir with their keyboards and microphones.
Monday felt historic. April 29 is a day we will remember and honor for years to come. A little-known 7-footer from Stanford became a household name and important figure by becoming the first openly gay male professional athlete.
Every man or woman of importance must have critics and enemies. Jason Collins will have plenty, and their voices will get louder and more vicious in the coming days.
My friend and one of the best people I know, ESPN NBA reporter Chris Broussard, claimed that Collins and all gay people are in “open rebellion” of God’s will. To be fair, Broussard also said that he believes everyone having premarital sex is in open rebellion, too. (God willing, I hope to rebel again tonight. I’m a rebel without pause.)
CBS radio host and TV personality Tim Brando, sensing an opportunity to light up his radio phone lines, made it perfectly clear on his Twitter feed that he doesn’t regard Collins as any kind of hero. Brando also used the Collins’ announcement as an opportunity to throw some red meat to any FOX News watchers looking for a friendly radio sports voice.
“Simple Being a Christian White male over 50 that's raised a family means nothing in today's culture. The sad truth. Period,” Brando tweeted.
Well, it does mean you’re more likely to get a loan from a bank, less likely to be profiled by the police, more likely to get a six-figure job babbling about sports, less likely to be accused of playing the race card when you clearly are, and more likely to be afforded every privilege and benefit of the doubt this country has to offer.
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Other than that, it means absolutely nothing, Tim. By the way, I like Tim Brando. He’s not as stupid as his Twitter feed makes him appear. He’s smart enough to realize there’s a huge opportunity in playing the other side, the politically incorrect side of the Jason Collins discussion.
Others will soon follow Brando’s lead and find an active choir of followers and dittoheads hailing them as courageous.
They will suggest that Collins is an opportunist who made his announcement in an effort to extend his career. Collins is a free agent this offseason. He played 38 games this past season and averaged one point and one rebound. He is clearly at the end of his career.
His critics will suggest that his Sports Illustrated-assisted announcement was too well orchestrated, his background too squeaky clean to be believed. Collins, it will be argued, is part of a plot by the gay and lesbian community and their liberal political sympathizers to force an immoral lifestyle into the mainstream and gain political power.
Collins is from an awesome family. He has a twin brother. They grew up in the liberal breeding ground of Los Angeles. They were educated at one of America’s best institutions. Dr. Edwards described Stanford as a “bastion of intellectual development, an environment conducive to the development of personal courage and integrity.”
The critics and cynics are coming. Kernels of truth will be on their side.
Their kernels will be trumped by an overriding truth. Gay youths need prominent role models in all walks of life, most especially in sports. As a kid, I was the typical overconfident, insensitive, unenlightened jock bully. We belittled the kids who were different than us in ways we did not even recognize. I’m ashamed.
It’s unfair. Kids don’t choose to be gay. We need to recognize and respect the full scope of humanity. Jason Collins can help us do that. He can save lives, help confused gay kids to choose life over suicide.
I fully expect — and quite frankly I demand — David Stern to use his power to ensure that Jason Collins has a job in the NBA for 82 games next season. This is a chance for basketball to be as important as baseball in 1947.