Last year, basketball player Jason Collins made big news and the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine by becoming the first professional athlete in any of the major American sports to come out as openly gay.
Except he wasn't. You see, Collins wasn't on any team at the time. And no team signed him during the off-season. So, there still wasn't an openly gay player in any major professional sport.
A couple of days ago, though, the Brooklyn Nets signed Collins to a contract. It's wasn't all that much, though, just a temporary 10-day contract. But it's still a contract. And last night, Collins made his professional debut. And he officially became the first openly gay player in any major professional sport.
It was a very big deal. Except for the part about it not being a deal at all. That's the odd thing about the situation.
As you'll see in the video below, there are some applause of recognition when he enters the game -- but they're smattering, and the game just goes on. I'm not saying this critically. It's actually a great thing, that most people just simply don't care. You're gay? You're playing professional sports? Yeah, okay, can you score points for us?
Mind you, it was a big deal for Collins to come out, since no one had ever done so in professional sports, and there are still many who put a stigma on such things. So, it took courage to do so. But as for the actual playing part? That moment simply came and went.
There's been commentary about Collins, of course, mostly noting how the public today is pretty accepting about such things compared to the past. But I think it's something else entirely why the playing part isn't really a big deal. It's not that the public is more accepting about an athlete being gay, I think it's because --
The public understand that gay athletes have already been playing in professional sports now for a very long time. The public understands that Jason Collins isn't The First Gay Athlete to play professional sports. He's just the first one to be open about. So, once he got into the game to play -- any part of the "big deal" was over.
When Jackie Robinson became the first black athlete to play professional sports -- he was the first. (Not counting those from other countries who were described as Latin and therefore accepted.) There was no hiding the fact. And when he played, every single pitch the crowd could see that there was a black player there, the first black player. The only black player. But when Jason Collins got into his first game, he don't only wasn't even close to the first professional gay athlete (perhaps the thousandth. Or more...), but you couldn't even tell.
Which ultimately is the whole point why it isn't a big deal. Or shouldn't be.
Of course, it is a big deal that he was open about it. But the biggest deal of all is that it isn't a big deal.
And here you can see all that at the same time.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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