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Big Man: Jason Collins makes history

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Jason Collins 2013 sportsillustrated.com

If you’re a sports junky like I am and you like checking scores during the day or listening to the latest rants on sports talk radio, then there was no way on God’s green earth you would have missed the groundbreaking headline that’s going to dominate over the next few days: Current NBA veteran Jason Collins admits to being gay.

In what will be a Sports Illustrated cover story next week, Collins decided that the country’s attitude towards equality and gay issues was different today than when he was a rookie center coming out of Stanford about 12 seasons ago. “I’m black and I’m gay,” he said in his first-person account.

And so for the next few days or weeks and even months, as we keep watch of whether other current athletes in major professional sports will follow suit or whether another NBA team will offer Collins, a free agent, a contract for next season, we’re going to continue to hear words as “groundbreaking,” “monumental” and “historic.”

But we’re going to have to use these words with a grain of salt, unfortunately. That’s because this weekend in Abbeville, Georgia, Wilcox County High School will be holding its first integrated prom. And I’m talking “integrated” as in black and white students will celebrate together. For the first time, people, let me just reiterate that as you process it. Before this weekend there have only been “black proms” and “white proms” for students attending the same school.

The Wilcox County prom story provides us with a bit of perspective. Here we have the issue of race, a scar that doesn’t seem to heal in our country. In 2013, the mere mention of racial tensions and violence and crappy LL Cool J-Brad Paisley duets still gets people’s blood boiling.

Then there’s Collins. A person isn’t considered dumb when you come out of Stanford; what makes his decision to come out all the more important is that Collins understands the kind of uphill battle he’s facing, even during a time when the signs of equality are shining more apparently brighter than ever.

President Obama, someone who knows a little bit about making history in his own right, appointed the first female Secret Service Chief in Julia Pierson this year. And in Minnesota, a group of – are you ready for this? – GOP (Yes, Republican) donors in support of gay marriage are pumping cash into lobbying efforts in order to convince Republican lawmakers to make gay marriage legal. Now if that’s not a sign of change…

As the Collins Coming Out story unfolds and we read what he has to say in Sports Illustrated, it’s important to remember a couple of things. And maybe this is a simplified way of explaining it, but who cares? As time goes by, especially in a country that’s as old as a toddler in the grand scheme of things, there are more open who are open and accepting of the homosexual community than those who are not. And as the days and months and years go by, the disparity between the two groups will continue to grow.

What we have to remember is that some people take longer than others to come around. And, unfortunately, some people never change. Hell, in Wilcox County, Georgia it took the students and not the parents to orchestrate enough change so that they could have an integrated prom – 45 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. 

So as we move forward with the Collins story and wonder where we go from here, here’s to hoping it doesn’t take nearly as long for people to accept Collins and the rest of the gay community as they continue to fight for the same equality and understanding that the rest of us often take for granted.