SportsIllustratedJasonCollinsCoverViaSI

Today NBA Center Jason Collins came out on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and praise comes from athletes, celebrities and politicos. Of course, there was also some negativity, too.

From Sports Illustrated, (the story appears in the May 6, 2013 issue) Collins writes:

Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “˜I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.’

Just a few days ago, in a television interview with Sports Illustrated, Baylor University’s Brittney Griner came out as soon as she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury. She’s not the first WNBA player to come out, but she is the The First Openly Gay Athlete To Sign With Nike. There was a good deal of conversation and congratulations around Griner’s announcement, but the response to Collins today is rather astounding.

By way of Twitter and otherwise, expressions of support, appreciation, and many positive comments came from, among others, Bill Clinton. Via Think Progress, where Zack Ford has a rather lengthy sampling of tweets and more, Clinton said:

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 LGBT community.

Chelsea Clinton also spoke out in support. From other political types, also via Think Progress, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:

Here at the White House we view that as another example of the progress that has been made and the evolution that has been taking place in this country, and commend him for his courage and support him in this effort, and hope that his fans and his team support him going forward.

Other politicos included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Democratic National Committee Chair Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; President Obama’s Organizing for America; Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA); Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO); Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema; Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Among athletes: Garrett Temple, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster (Washington Wizards); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash (Los Angeles Lakers); Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King (Retired tennis players); Boston Red Sox; Nick Swisher (Cleveland Indians); and sports reporters Dick Vitale, Bill Simmons and David Aldridge.

And the celebrities include: Spike Lee, Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Katie Couric, Rosie O’Donnell; Ricky Martin, Kathy Griffin, Alyssa Milano and Lance Bass.

The response really is impressive. But as I mentioned earlier, there was some of the negative kind, too. They don’t take anything away from the positive. In fact, they make the coming out decisions by Collins, earlier by Griner and others, that much more significant. Plus, the negatives are indications of predictable arguments and judgments, and it is important to remember that’s still a part of the “coming out” context.

Via Joe My God, a tweet from Matt Barber, Associate Dean at Liberty University School of Law:

“˜When will the first brave athlete “˜come out’ & acknowledge that he and his mother hook up? We need role models for incestuous kids! Courage!’

And at Think Progress:

An ESPN sportscaster (Chris Broussard) went on the air on Monday to publicly gay-bash Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out Monday morning in an emotional op-ed, the first active male player of a major American sport to come out.

Speaking on ESPN’s Outside The Lines, Chris Broussard said that he would “˜not characterize [Collins] as a Christian.’ He made the comments in front of his openly gay colleague, LZ Granderson … .

It does still take courage. Good for Collins, and for Griner a few days earlier. And good for all those who take that huge step of “coming out.” They won’t make headlines, but hopefully those made by people like Collins will help give strength and encouragement to others. Congratulation, and thanks, to all who take the step, and to all who support us when we do.

(Sports Illustrated Jason Collins Cover via Sports Illustrated)