04 May 2013

I’m in New Orleans, but I’m taking a quick break from writing about New Orleans to address one of the week’s biggest news stories— NBA player Jason Collins’ announcement that he is gay. In proclaiming his sexual preference, he becomes the first pro athlete in any of the four main sports (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) to come out while he is still actively playing. That seems hard to believe, but it’s true. 

While much of the response to Collins’ news has been supportive, there has been dissent from certain quarters that has had a rippling effect. For example, USA Today wrote on May 2 about how former Green Bay Packers’ player LeRoy Butler was uninvited to speak at a church in Wisconsin after he tweeted his support for Collins.  What kind of church practices that kind of intolerance for others?  Where’s the message of love and acceptance? Even if you believe homosexuality is wrong, what about hate the sin, not the sinner? Plus, Butler wasn’t going there to discuss Collins, he was booked long before Collins came out.

Even worse, Butler says the church’s pastor told him that if he removed his tweet, he could still speak and collect his $8,500. He said no. Hmmm, who’s acting more Christian in this circumstance? 

Eventually, announcements like Collins’ won’t cause any reaction at all, and I long for the day when no such announcement is even needed if a player is gay and a gay player is allowed to live his life as openly as a straight one. It still boggles my mind that we aren’t there yet. 

Long before Collins came out, one of my colleagues, Michiel, began working on a documentary called “Game Face,” a film about the coming out process for professional and college athletes.  As is clear with Collins’ announcement, as much acceptance as he’s found, there’s still a great deal of homophobia in pro sports.  With “Game Face,” Michiel addresses those issues. Among the subjects in the film is Fallon Fox, a mixed martial arts fighter, who made news  as the MMA’s first openly transgender woman. 

One day, an athlete’s sexuality won’t matter, but for now, it does, and Michiel’s documentary is an important chronicling of the times. His indiegogo funding runs through May 15. 

May 4: Game Face

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