Jason Collins: The Great Black Hope

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 Jason Collins: The Great Black Hope

The professional sports world has been waiting for a Jason Collins moment— a gay athlete currently playing in a major league to come out publicly.  What you may not know is that the subtext is that it was hoped the moment would star an African American male.

The African American community, let alone the sports world, desperately needed an openly gay current male professional player.

Collins, who deliberately wore the jersey number, "98," to honor slain gay student Matthew Shepard during the 2012-13 NBA season, is a 7' 0" center for the Washington Wizards, a former Boston Celtics, and is also African American. Closeted for all of his professional playing life, until now, Collins told Sports Illustrated, why he finally came out.

"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy....I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore."

LGBTQ athletes must constantly monitor how they are being perceived by teammates, coaches, endorsers and the media in order to avoid suspicion. They are expected to maintain a public silence and decorum so that their identity does not tarnish the rest of the team.

In what will now hopefully become the last closet where LGBTQ hide their sexual orientation, thanks to Collins, the sports world's hyper-masculine and testosterone-driven milieu might actually begin to loosen its homophobic hold, especially among black athletes.

Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics and African American, is revered among black athletes.

Having coached Collins for 32 games before Collins was traded to the Washington Wizard, Doc Rivers remarks help spread a message of acceptance.

"I'm really proud of Jason. He still can play. He'll be active in our league, I hope, and we can get by this— get past this. I think it would be terrific for the league. More than anything, it would just be terrific for mankind, my gosh."

In terms of when and how you come out personally, timing is everything. So, too, in coming out professionally.

The statement, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay”