WBEZ | gay athletes http://www.wbez.org/tags/gay-athletes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why Jason Collins' coming out is so meaningful http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/why-jason-collins-coming-out-so-meaningful-106903 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP130417116345_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 240px; width: 300px;" title="File: In this April 17, 2013 file photo, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, right, battles for a rebound against Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. Collins is the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay. (AP/File)" />When I was in 20s, my queer friends and I had a phone tree. One of the most fun excuses to call was when a gay character would pop on TV. These were like rare birds or comets. There was a certain delight in seeing them, even when they were terribly written or acted, or when their ultimate effect was negative. For us, who rarely saw ourselves reflected in the flickering light of media ordinariness, seeing another member of our species in almost any circumstance was an affirmation that we existed, that we were, in fact, everywhere, however covertly.<br /><br />I was thinking about those times again after reading Jason Collins&rsquo; moving <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/">coming out story</a> in <em>Sports Illustrated</em>. We live at a time when queer people have never been more ubiquitous in media and out in the world. However unequal we may in fact be, we&rsquo;ve never been more equal. But Collins&#39; description of life in the NBA closet harkened back to a darker and lonelier time, a time when the stakes of being found out could be life-altering and devastating.<br /><br />It reminded me too of those years when Martina Navratilova ruled the tennis world and we &ndash; gaggles of lesbians, including many like myself who weren&rsquo;t particularly interested in tennis &ndash; would flock to see her perform. Why did we go? Because one of us had reached a pinnacle, because it was important to support her. Especially important since&nbsp;Navratilova, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/female-athletes-have-been-out-for-decades">one of the very first pro athletes ever to come out</a>, was hounded by the media and actually brought to tears by the relentlessness inquisition and barbs.<br /><br />That particular episode made a hero of her <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/">friend and rival</a>, Chris Evert, the tennis golden girl she stole the crown from. Evert admonished everybody to leave her friend alone. Evert demonstrated the importance of allies with words, but there was something more significant in her actions: She draped her arm around Martina and showed queerness didn&rsquo;t rub off.<br /><br />And we, the gay gals in the stands, understood something else was at play too. With every inch that Martina won for herself, she was advancing the cause of tolerance. And every time Evert draped that arm over her shoulder, it was less extraordinary, less brave &ndash; precisely because it had been so brave that first time &ndash; and more and more a common sight at countless Grand Slams. It was weird not to see them together, so much had they become the norm. And, sure, because Martina was such a towering figure &ndash; because she reshaped and redefined women&rsquo;s tennis &ndash; she was indisputable.<br /><br /><a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/martina-navratilova-jason-collins-reaction/">Navratilova wrote</a> an accompanying piece to Collins&rsquo; in which she makes an important point: hers was an individual sport. She was either good enough or she wasn&rsquo;t. No one could keep her off the court but herself. With Collins, in a team sport in which personnel decisions aren&rsquo;t made by players, a prejudiced coach or owner could keep a player off the court. Jason Collins&rsquo; position was more precarious.<br /><br />And yet Collins, deep in the closet, felt compelled to reach out with symbolic identification, a move so covert I&rsquo;m not sure anyone outside his most immediate circle understood it. He wore 98 on his uniform, in honor of 1998, the year Matthew Shepard, <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/jason-collins-matthew-shepard-parents-touched-by-jason-collins-decision-to-wearnumber-98-042913">a young gay man was murdered in horrific and inhumane fashion</a>.<br /><br />That may seem an odd choice for identification. Collins is a titan, Shepard like a baby bird. But it may say something about how vulnerable Collins has felt all his life. And, of course, what an incredibly important step his coming out is. And how important all <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-reveals-gay-nba-reaction/?sct=obinsite">the media, league and political support</a> is. It&#39;s Chris Evert&rsquo;s arm multiplied by thousands.<br /><br />When I read through the reactions to Collins&rsquo; announcement and see the inevitable reader comment suggesting the revelation of sexual orientation shouldn&rsquo;t be news, I agree. But until there are no Matthew Shepards, saying you&rsquo;re anything but heteronormative is still an act of courage.</p><p>And the fact that Jason Collins &ndash; roommates with a Kennedy, earning more than $1 million a year, and possessing the physical powers to dispatch any street bully &ndash; was still afraid, means that, yes, it&rsquo;s still news.</p></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 12:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/why-jason-collins-coming-out-so-meaningful-106903 NBA star's coming out reveals double standard in sports http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/nba-stars-coming-out-reveals-double-standard-sports-106895 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP130417116345.jpg" style="float: right; height: 240px; width: 300px;" title="File: In this April 17, 2013 file photo, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, right, battles for a rebound against Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich." />Billie Jean King. Martina Navratilova. Sheryl Swoopes. Natasha Kai. Megan Rapinoe. Sue Wicks. Rosie Jones. Michelle Van Gorp. Amber Harris. Jessica Adair. Liz Carmouche. Stacy Sekora. Seimone Augustus.</p><p>What do all of these women have in common? They are all <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/female-athletes-have-been-out-for-decades" target="_blank">out professional athletes</a>, just like Jason Collins.</p><p>King and Navratilova became the world&rsquo;s first out sports stars over 30 years ago, at a time when homosexuality was still classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder. King won 12 Grand Slam titles in her long career, a laudable feat for any athlete.</p><p>To be taken seriously, King didn&rsquo;t just have to prove she was the best female player. She had to prove she was the best, period. When she beat Bobby Riggs, the headlines claimed she &ldquo;won for all women.&rdquo;</p><p>But how far have we come since 1973? Here&rsquo;s an experiment: Name ten female athletes currently playing team sports professionally. I&rsquo;d wager more of you can name ten male players.</p><p>Can you name five WNBA teams? Neither can I.</p><p>Do you know who Brittney Griner is? I didn&rsquo;t until a couple weeks ago.</p><p>Griner was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, after making her name as one of the most dominant college basketball players in history. After being drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, Griner came out. Nike offered an endorsement to the first out professional athlete after holding an LGBT sports summit last June. The Internet was abuzz about who might use the deal to come out.</p><p>When Nike <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/25/brittney-griner-nike-deal-_n_3157164.html" target="_blank">offered it</a> to Griner, the announcement (like her coming out) was an anticlimax.</p><p>Imagine if a male basketball star of Griner&rsquo;s stature came out. If Lebrón James or Dwayne Wade revealed they were gay. It would break the Internet. When the former Baylor star came out, the only headlines were about how it &ldquo;<a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/brittney-griner-coming-out-is-no-big-deal--and-that-s-a-big-deal-173852992.html" target="_blank">wasn&rsquo;t that big of a deal</a>.&rdquo; <em>The New York Times</em> wrote that the sports world collectively &quot;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/sports/ncaabasketball/brittney-griner-comes-out-and-sports-world-shrugs.html?_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">shrugged</a>&quot;&nbsp;at the announcement.</p><p>Some called this a step forward and sign that the WNBA&rsquo;s tolerance. In a profile on Griner, Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/brittney-griner-coming-out-is-no-big-deal--and-that-s-a-big-deal-173852992.html" target="_blank">wrote</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s [the key]. The &lsquo;younger generation.&rsquo; Griner knows that the key to acceptance is through upcoming generations. There are plenty of people still alive who can remember a time before Jackie Robinson, but for the rest of us, the idea of a segregated baseball field is impossible to conceive. An athlete&rsquo;s sexual orientation shouldn&rsquo;t be a bigger story than what he or she does on the field. If we&rsquo;re going to obsess on players&rsquo; sexual preferences, Griner&rsquo;s understated stance, and the resulting acceptance, are the way to go.&rdquo;</p><p>Those are encouraging sentiments, but why hasn&rsquo;t that message been shared with a wider audience? Why is the fact that Griner&rsquo;s coming out &ldquo;wasn&rsquo;t that big a deal&rdquo; a bigger deal?</p><p>In an interview with the Times, Jim Buzinski, co-founder of OutSports.com, put it bluntly: &ldquo;Because [she&rsquo;s] a woman.&rdquo;</p><p>Buzinski said a piece on OutSports speculating that a pro sports player might come out received ten times more traffic than a video of Griner actually coming out as a lesbian.</p><p>Less than 24 hours after coming out, Jason Collins is becoming a household name. His interview in Sports Illustrated has been shared more than 200,000 times. The Los Angeles Dodgers&rsquo; Don Mattingly and Boston Celtics&rsquo; <a href="http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/29/former-jason-collins-coach-doc-rivers-states-support-references-jackie-robinson/" target="_blank">Doc Rivers</a> compared him to Jackie Robinson. Rivers traded Collins last year to the Washington Wizards.</p><p>In his 38 starts this season, Collins scored an average of 1.1 points per game. His <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Collins" target="_blank">best season</a> was in 2004-05 with the New Jersey Nets, when he scored 6.4 points per game. With that average, he would qualify for the <a href="http://espn.go.com/nba/statistics/player/_/stat/scoring-per-game/sort/avgPoints/qualified/false/count/81" target="_blank">104th ranked offensive player</a> in the league, scoring a quarter of what Griner averaged with Baylor last season.</p><p>Collins is a class act and a hero, but as a player, he&rsquo;s no Brittney Griner.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s okay. He doesn&rsquo;t have to be.</p><p>After finishing his 14th season, Collins&rsquo; impact (as Busbee notes) will likely be felt with future generations of male pro sports players, who have their trail slightly more blazed. Collins might not be the best, but he&rsquo;s here &mdash; and any sort of visibility is key.</p><p>Anna Aagenes, Executive Director of Go! Athletes, says this is a gender issue at its core.</p><p>&ldquo;We talk a lot in the LGBT community about how sexism is a big part of what contributes to homophobia,&rdquo; Aagenes told the Times. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s disheartening when there are so many great role model female athletes out that we&rsquo;re so focused on waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in one of the four major sports.&rdquo;</p><p>The Times piece argues that female athletes don&rsquo;t battle perceptions that all of their peers are straight. It&rsquo;s exactly the opposite. Griner&rsquo;s bravery in sharing her sexuality isn&rsquo;t seen as heroic &mdash; but an affirmation of the stereotype that all female athletes are lesbians.</p><p>Whereas NFL players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo were praised for speaking out in support of gay athletes, their straight female counterparts haven&rsquo;t been as supportive. They don&rsquo;t want to uphold the gender stereotype.</p><p>When Jason Collins spoke to Sports Illustrated on Monday, he accidentally hit that <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/" target="_blank">nail on the head</a>. Collins credited himself as the first out athlete in a &ldquo;major American team sport,&rdquo; and the WNBA isn&rsquo;t &ldquo;major.&rdquo; The only time it&rsquo;s ever brought up is as a punchline.</p><p>There&rsquo;s even a <a href="https://twitter.com/WNBAJokes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and a <a href="http://zz.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/15ewdm/the_wnba/" target="_blank">Reddit</a> for WNBA jokes. They&rsquo;re usually about how underpaid WNBA players are. Here&rsquo;s one: &ldquo;How much does the highest paid WNBA player make? Sandwiches.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s sexist, but it&rsquo;s not far from the truth. Lisa Leslie, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, made <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0410/top-wnba-salaries.aspx" target="_blank">just $91,000</a> in 2006. That was the league limit. You couldn&rsquo;t make more than that. The average salary for male players in the NBA is about <a href="http://www.nba.com/2011/news/features/steve_aschburner/08/19/average-salary/index.html" target="_blank">$5&nbsp;million</a>. Jason Collins makes $1.3&nbsp;million, ten times what Brittney Griner will likely make. Collins will become a household name, and Griner will be forgotten.</p><p>Before the draft, <a href="http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1596102-2013-nba-draft-brittney-griner-can-play-in-the-nba-if-given-right-opportunity" target="_blank">rumor had it</a> that someone of Griner&rsquo;s stature might pursue the NBA &mdash; like Michelle Wie and Danika Patrick, who had to prove their worth by competing against men. The suggestion implies Griner&#39;s only way of being taken seriously would be winning a man&rsquo;s game. Forty years after King and things haven&rsquo;t changed all that much. Women might have won the &ldquo;battle of the sexes,&rdquo; but they are losing the war.</p><div><div><div property="content:encoded"><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can find Nico on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></div></div></div><ul class="social-tools clearfix two" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px 0px 15px; border-width: 0px 0px 2px; border-bottom-style: solid; border-bottom-color: rgb(232, 232, 232); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13.63636302947998px; line-height: 21.988636016845703px; vertical-align: baseline; list-style-position: inside; list-style-image: initial; width: 620px; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><li class="comments first" style="margin: 0px 12px 4px 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; display: block; float: left;">&nbsp;</li></ul></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 09:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/nba-stars-coming-out-reveals-double-standard-sports-106895 NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as gay http://www.wbez.org/news/nba-veteran-jason-collins-comes-out-gay-106882 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP130417116345.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay.</p><p>The 34-year-old center, who has played for six teams in 12 seasons, wrote a first-person account that was posted on Sports Illustrated&#39;s website Monday. Collins finished the season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to keep playing.</p><p>&quot;If I had my way, someone else would have already done this,&quot; he writes. &quot;Nobody has, which is why I&#39;m raising my hand.&quot;</p><p>Collins played in a Final Four for Stanford and reached two NBA Finals. His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Collins says he told his brother he was gay last summer.</p><p>&quot;Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,&quot; NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.</p><p>White House spokesman Jay Carney called the decision courageous and former President Bill Clinton said it was &quot;an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I hope that everyone, particularly Jason&#39;s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned,&quot; Clinton added.</p><p>Daughter Chelsea, who knew the player from Stanford, tweeted: &quot;Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength &amp; courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA.&quot;</p><p>Collins was also college roommates with another member of an American political dynasty: Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. In his account, Collins wrote that he realized he needed to go public when the congressman walked in Boston&#39;s gay pride parade last year &mdash; and Collins couldn&#39;t join him.</p><p>Kennedy tweeted Monday that &quot;I&#39;ve always been proud to call (Collins) a friend, and I&#39;m even prouder to stand with him today.&quot;</p><p>Mostly a backup in his career, Collins has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards. He was traded from Boston to Washington in February. Collins was the 18th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft.</p><p>Several NBA players voiced support, including Kobe Bryant, who tweeted that he was proud of Collins.</p><p>&quot;Don&#39;t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others,&quot; his post said, followed by the words &quot;courage&quot; and &quot;support.&quot;</p><p>Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld weighed in saying: &quot;We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.&quot;</p><p>Several male athletes have previously come out after they retired, including the NBA&#39;s John Amaechi, the NFL&#39;s Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball&#39;s Billy Bean. But Collins is the first to do so while planning to keep playing.</p><p>Collins wrote that he quietly made a statement for gay rights even while keeping his sexual orientation a secret. He wore the No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards &mdash; that was the year Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.</p><p>&quot; &#39;Courage&#39; and &#39;inspiration&#39; are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context,&quot; said Aaron McQuade, who heads the sports program for the advocacy group GLAAD, &quot;We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero.&quot;</p><p>In February, former U.S. soccer national team player Robbie Rogers said he was gay &mdash; and retired at the same time. Rogers is just 25, and others have urged him to resume his career.</p><p>&quot;I feel a movement coming,&quot; he tweeted after the Collins news broke.</p><p>Female athletes have found more acceptance in coming out; Brittney Griner, one of the best women&#39;s basketball players, caused little ripple when she acknowledged earlier this month she was a lesbian. Tennis great Martina Navratilova tweeted Monday that Collins is &quot;a brave man.&quot;</p><p>&quot;1981 was the year for me- 2013 is the year for you,&quot; her post added.</p></p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 13:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/nba-veteran-jason-collins-comes-out-gay-106882 If sports are becoming more gay-friendly, how come players aren't coming out? http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-16/if-sports-are-becoming-more-gay-friendly-how-come-players-arent-coming-out-97349 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-16/burkes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/SXoTRTAw6Dc" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to this conversation</span></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332754875-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/120316 848 SEG A.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div></div><p>Earlier this month, the National Hockey League <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/hockey/nhl/03/04/homophobia.psa.ap/index.html">released a public service announcement</a> in support of LGBT rights. It aired during the equivalent of hockey's prime-time -- a New York Rangers/Boston Bruins game -- and was one of several that will feature over 30 NHL athletes as part of a campaign called "You Can Play." The project was founded by Patrick Burke, a scout for the&nbsp;Philadelphia Flyers, whose late brother Brendan Burke was the manager of a college hockey team, gay and out.</p><p>"The messages are very simple, yet meaningful," said Patrick Burke. "It's variations of the idea that all they care about is winning, all they care about is having the best teammates and it doesn't matter if the best teammate happens to be gay or straight."</p><p>But many feel the sport -- and sports in general -- have a long way to go in accepting gay athletes. Female athletes have had an easier time dealing with the stigma attached to being gay, says former #1 Grand Slam Tennis Champion Rennae Stubbs (now a commentator for ESPN), who will join us on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> today to talk about her experience.&nbsp;</p><p>For some, there's also added pressure from the gay community, who want sports stars to come out, but who may not understand the environment thoroughly. That's a sentiment expressed by former major league baseball player Billy Bean, in his book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Going-Other-Way-Lessons-Baseball/dp/1569244618"><em>Going the Other Way:&nbsp;Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball</em></a>. Bean came out after retiring.</p><p>Stubbs and Bean will be joined by Bob Cook, a <a href="http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml">sports blogger for Forbes magazine,</a> who help shed some light on the subject. To give you a peak<a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcook/2012/03/15/if-sports-is-getting-gay-friendlier-how-come-players-arent-coming-out/"> at his thoughts</a>: "I won’t spoil the whole segment, but the answer has to do, I think, with what players hear from day one in youth sports."</p></p> Fri, 16 Mar 2012 13:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-16/if-sports-are-becoming-more-gay-friendly-how-come-players-arent-coming-out-97349