Thoughts about Jason Collins and his historical moment

jason collins

Congratulations to Jason Collins for being comfortable and brave to admit his sexual orientation in a public manner. The thirty-four old NBA center made history yesterday when his personal essay for Sports Illustrated leaked to the press and other media outlets, marking him as the first openly gay professional team sport athlete. Here are my thoughts and concerns as this story makes its way through our media’s digestive track.

  • As this Ted Talk illustrates the key to a movement is actually the second person. Who will follow Collins’ courageous first step and announce their sexual orientation? Once that happens, I hope the flood gates will open and America can begin to openly discuss and accept (not tolerate…I strongly dislike that word when we discuss differences…I can tolerate playing basketball on a sprained ankle, whereas I can accept one’s humanity) gay athletes.
  • Bill Clinton wrote yesterday, “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities,” in praise of Jason Collins’ admission. While I agree with him, I am weary of the use of “good man.” I worry that while Clinton in trying to challenge the way we think of gay athletes, unfortunately reinforces the idea of gay as “bad.” His statement would have still been as powerful with the omission of “good man” because regardless of Collins’ sexuality he is a good person; the two, goodness and sexuality, should not be linked.
  • Collins coming out has a “where were you when…” feel to it. I was in my car, listening to ESPN talk radio when I first heard the news. The announcer stressed that he was not gay, but supported Jason Collins. It struck me as odd that he felt the need to confirm his heterosexuality as he supported an openly gay athlete. Pay attention to that throughout the subsequent commentary.
  • Lastly, while I disagree with those who for various reasons (i.e. bigotry, religion, etc) condemn homosexuality, I do believe that in the spirit of diversity they should be able to share their thoughts and opinions. While it pains me to write that sentence because I worry about the hatred that they may spew, it is within their rights to voice their opinions. Likewise, it is in my rights to disagree with them.

In the words of the famous philosopher from Brooklyn, Jay-Z, “What you eat, don’t make me shhh…Where’s the love?”

I am thankful that Jason Collins found the inner strength to share such a private matter in such a public manner to help push the conversation about homosexuality, sports, masculinity, and the various interconnected threads forward. Who he decides to sleep with does not affect me anymore than it affected it yesterday; likewise, who I decide to sleep with does not affect him. I appreciate his decision to live authentically and hope that others, regardless of sexual orientation, can learn from his example: Be who you are and love who you are because you deserve it!

Editor’s Note

editors noteOn Fridays, I will share news stories, personal experiences, or other musings that stood out to me throughout the week.

  • Diplomats Reunion Concert for the ten year anniversary of Diplomatic Immunity (editor’s note: with various rappers doing ten year anniversary shows, I suddenly feel dated and I haven’t even hit thirty yet. However, it is impossible to not recognize the impact that the Diplomats had on NYC culture in the early 2000’s. Dip!). 
  • The end of Miami’s Heat twenty-seven win streak (editor’s note: as a basketball fan I wanted to see the Lakers vaunted record fall, especially with Lebron leading the charge. Oh well!)
  • Religion (editor’s note: walking home after completing a couple of errands, I witness a Catholic middle school’s reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion journey, with Roman soliders whipping at the faux cross and a student wearing a Jesus mask. The procession was followed by roughly a hundred or more parents, walking through the neighborhood. And then I remembered a conversation with a friend, who confessed that they achieved a serious religious moment while on a drug-induced trip. Their recollection of the moment, in which they felt connected to every particle on earth,  made sense. Point being that religion and its meaning manifests itself different).
  • Death (editor’s note: My condolences to a close friend who lost a dear friend and another friend who lost their grandmother. Death is inevitable but still feels tremendously unfair and crude).
  • Harry Potter (editor’s note: I started to read the Harry Potter series and am in love. I am not sure why I missed this wave the first time, and am actually not sure how I decided to make it my wave currently. But, I am thankful that I did because it is a great, fun read).
  • Kwame Harris (editor’s note: a lightly covered story about a former NFL player who was outed a couple months ago because of an altercation with a former partner. Interestingly, in the four male professional sports, there are no openly gay athletes. The fact illuminates a disturbingly disheartening truth about our society’s acceptance and acknowledgement of sexuality).
  • Red Equal Sign parodies (editor’s note: while the Supreme Court discusses gay marriage rights, many have taken the powerful symbol, a red equal sign, and have made various parodies. Turning the symbol into a joke, once again, speaks to our societal immaturity to openly discuss difficult topics. Instead, folk are quick to turn the matter into a farce. Though these various parodies are intended to make people laugh, these parodies undoubtedly belittle and hurt many whose ability to marry their love depends on nine people’s whim interpretation).
  • Florida Gulf Coast University (editor’s note: Dunk City are the darlings of the NCAA tournament, having upset two higher ranked teams with relative easy and ferocious dunks, their coach is married to a former Supermodel, and their team consists of a bunch of players that other, more notable programs, did not recruit. America loves the underdog and I will be rooting for them to make it the Elite Eight).

What stood out to you during the week? Please share your “editor’s note” in the comments.

Are You A Man of God?

The train pulls up to the station and I can still smell the beer stench from the passenger next to me. No judgment, I remind myself as he sloppily piles his personal labtop and other materials into his carry on book bag. Visibly, he is in a hurry so I politely move out of his way so that he can get to wherever he is going.

As I ascend the stairs, the only thought on my mind is the comfy hotel bed that awaits my tired body. The chilled midnight air welcomes me to Philly. While waiting in line for a cab with two friends to whisk us downtown, a man spots me. We make eye contact, and he approaches me with a hurried step as if he knows me. “You,” he loudly says, pointing at me. I turn my head to look around. Maybe I intercepted his eye contact which was intended for someone else behind me, which has happened countless times before.

“No, you,” he quickly clarifies, recognizing my slight confusion. We regain eye contact. “Are you a man of God,” he questions.

For the first time, I am having a difficult time writing a post. The other posts have flowed effortlessly from conception to publishing. I get a rush from it. I gladly welcome and enjoy the strong shot of dopamine that courses swiftly through my body. Writing is liberating.

This post is different. Very. I know which experience I want to share, but struggle with its delivery like a breech birth. The words dangle in my mind and are lost in translation as I attempt to transpose them onto paper my blog.

Could it be because this moment was confusingly powerful?
Could it be because this moment has many different implications and interpretations?
Could it be because this moment touched me emotionally, in an unfamiliar way?

“I am,” I answer, unsure, not of my answer but of his intention. “Can you pray for me?” he continues with a solemn look in his eyes. “I tried to commit suicide earlier today.”

We move a few steps away from the line to ensure some privacy from the other train passengers waiting for their cab to transport them to wherever they were going.

I listen to him tell me about his struggle with life since his release from prison after twenty five years. I listen to him share his disappointment in himself when he attempted to rob someone a few hours ago. I listen to him recount his frustration, after his failed attempt, with a nearby Black church, whose pastor refused to help him because he is not a member of the pastor’s church. I listen to him ask for money so that he can get to his job, his night shift begins at 1am.

I reassure him that his relationship with God is self-determined and independent of membership to a church. I reassure that he has to live with his decisions and can lead a life that he can be proud of only when he is ready to do so. I reassure him that I will pray for him. I reassure him that I do not have any money to give him.

Suddenly, our moment is disrupted when my friends call my name to let me that we finally made it to the front of the line. As I duck into the cab, they look at me and ask what did the man say to me.

I thought. “Are you a man of God?” I respond.