NBA basketball player Jason Collins announced in a Sports Illustrated cover story this week that he’s a member of the LGBT community. Although statistical probability indicates there are several dozen gay athletes in United States major team sports leagues, Collins is the first to make it known to the world. It took the 34-year-old third backup-center a full 33 years to realize he didn’t like girls, he told Sports Illustrated.
Though being celebrated by some in the mainstream media as a historic figure, the fact that Collins might not even play in the league next year and has never been more than a marginal player somewhat dampers the possible significance of his announcement. Several Rocklanders commented on the Rockland Times Facebook page that they didn’t care about Collins’ sexual proclivities and wished the story would disappear.
The culture of locker rooms in male team sports generally is typified by male bonding rituals and an assumption of heterosexuality, thus it has long been a taboo for male athletes to make it known they are gay. Also, fear of rejection or harassment by fans and not wanting to be “the first” are likely two other reasons there has never been a publicly gay athlete in a major team sport.