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How We All Mishandled The Jason Collins Announcement


The first openly gay athlete among major North American team sports. 

It has a very distinct and historic feel to the statement. Anything first usually will be, and anything revolving around the continuing homosexual community will be as well. Now the debate moves to sports, where machismo and sentiments of being anti-homosexual has filled the culture for decades. We've seen the change in women sports, but with an NBA player now joining the platform, the topic now hits a bigger realm. 

As topics revolving around Collins progresses in discussion and expands into many facets regarding culture, society, sports, race, gender, religion, and other corners that make us all so different, I found myself moving from a genuine "cool, good for him", to "wait...hold on just a minute", to eventually, "now we've gone too far". And let me be clear as I've said my share on this topic to the dismay of a vocal group in the past - this is all honest feedback. Just how I feel. No pressure to be politically correct or even influenced by societal pressures.

I've long said, I don't support the lifestyle, but by no means am I some type of extremist against the gay community. At the same time, I do support love, anti-discrimination, and understanding towards others. 

Quite frankly, I love Jesus, period. That's my announcement, go figure...

And yes, I do condemn (and in many ways find annoying) groups that take these extreme stands and mis-represent the Christian faith (ahem, looking at you Westboro Baptist Church).

At the same time, I do feel that somewhere along the line disagreeing with a lifestyle became equal to being filled with hate, or being a "bigot", which is the furthest thing from the truth. But this all for another post for another day. Another discussion for another time. 

Back to Jason Collins. Because this is his time.

Being the first anything isn't easy. Especially, when those firsts are very much against the grain of society. I genuinely tip my cap to Collins. Doing what he did that takes lots of courage. Lots and lots of courage. Very few people let the world in on their lives, and when they do, it's rare they give it all. Especially, when it is something that can cause ridicule, discrimination, and/or controversy.

Jason Collins should be commended for taking this step. For allowing others to do the same and easing their fears that their choice will lead to discrimination of any kind. 

It's a brave move during a time following the Boston Marathon bombings in which we are reminded that life is short, and many of our quarrels are sometimes made more of than they should be.

So he opened up and let the world know what his choice of sexual orientation is, outing himself, but at the same time becoming a role model for the gay community, and as an example to further human relations. 

"Cool. Good For him."

It's a great story and  superb lesson in so many ways. For him, on finally coming to grips with his real life. For our society, on taking a step toward tolerance. And for sports, opening up dialogue on the evolving definition of diversity, and how it applies to locker rooms across the nation. 

It was awesome stuff, and then it began...

Collins' story suddenly went from being a topic that opened discussions, rhetoric, and minds on how we accept others, into a vast slippery slope of "monumental-ness", "historical-ness", "ground breaking-ness", and "earth shattering-ness", that has turned a moment of education, knowledge, and  vital lessons on tolerance into a huge parody of the real situation. 

When much of the hoopla reaches into comparing Collins' announcement to that of what Jackie Robinson did for our nation, this is where I raise my hand and go, "wait...hold on just a minute".

The last time I checked, Jackie Robinson couldn't hide his skin color. Jackie Robinson didn't decide late in his career to "come out of the closet" proclaiming to everyone that he was black. No. Robinson went through more than we can ever imagine to break barriers which still have not completely crumbled.

In fact, when Jackie Robinson walked out onto fields, standing tall with integrity and determination, he was spat upon, shunned, with some attempting to harm him. In comparison, since Collins went public, he has received the cover of Sports Illustrated, national attention, endorsement deals in the works, and even an invitation to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. 

I'm not looking to downplay Collins' courageous announcement, but to help make my point that much of the over-attention, and exaggeration of this story doesn't bring, and will not bring resolution to the issue, but rather fuels it even more so, and spreads the division between the two sides. It alienates the true intention which is to bring light to the discussion, and help close the gaps we deal with today. 

So let's finally put this to rest, Jason Collins is no Jackie Robinson. 

Nonetheless, the media push strengthened and the focus of this story continued to get lost as I furthered my interest on how this announcement spun out of control, and further away from it's intention. 

Sometimes, I read articles on important issues simply for the reader's comments and reactions below. It gives a great synopsis of where our society truly is on the topic. Almost every article I've read since news broke about the Sports Illustrated essay by Collins was filled with comments of bickering, back-and-forth bantering, slandering the other side, and making sarcastic arguments towards the other. The other comments consisted of those who tired of the story's continuing embellishment.


The on-going divisive comments continued when Chris Broussard gave his opinion on ESPN's Outside the Lines. Broussard was on the show to discuss the recent developments and also offer a different view in the panel discussion along with his good friend and CNN.com and ESPN contributer, LZ Granderson. LZ also happens to be gay.

Broussard, a Christian, was asked for his opinion, and generously gave it by ultimately saying he did not agree with the lifestyle. Immediately, Broussard came under fire, especially from social media outlets, with many calling for his termination.

You can read a great roundup of the situation here.

How can we throw stones in the name of intolerance, when we aren't even acknowledging where either side is coming from? Shouldn't tolerance be a two way street?

Isn't tolerance what we're really trying to get at here? Isn't this what Collins' announcement was all about? 

And after writing this, and re-writing it, and re-writing it some more to make sure I stated my claim without sounding overly insensitive, intolerant or wavering on either side, yet, being what I've vowed to do here on this blog since day one, being honest and transparent, I realized how much the over-saturation of the story has caused derision between all. 

Sadly, no matter how many times I re-write this to get my point across in a reasonable fashion, there will be someone, probably many, who will read this and only take from it what they want to ignite their agenda. The same way many have done in the past with other posts regarding the always-controversial homosexuality issue.

But so it goes...

Personally, I find myself among those who couldn't careless what Jason Collins' sexual orientation is. Whomever he loves has no bearing on how I view him as a person and as a basketball player. I believe... I hope...I think that's the end-game in this entire situation, isn't it? Tolerance? No? 

Unfortunately, we've greatly misplayed this occasion along with the grand opportunity to make strides that are more than just cosmetic for historical records, but serious moves toward overall understanding of one another.

Because of this overplay, I seriously wonder how many people will just see Jason Collins as just a basketball player, and not, "gay basketball player"?  And if that's the case, what did we truly accomplish?

From the outlandish and knee-jerk comparisons to Jackie Robinson, the underlying political agendas by everyone, the accusations of anti and pro gay bias, the continued effort to one-up the other side, to the overall self-serving agenda of the United States media, this situation has gone from an athlete using himself to help along a civil rights issue towards a resolve, to forcing everyone to hold onto their sides of the argument even tighter - with even more ignorance and less tolerance - without acknowledging or digesting what has really occurred this week.

If that is truly the result, then Jason Collins' did this all for naught. And that is the biggest and scariest issue of this entire ordeal. 

"Now, we've gone too far."

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