Fans and players alike have been wondering what would happen if a player in professional sports were to come out of the closet, and now the question will be answered.
Washington Wizards’ center Jason Collins now has the distinction of being the first active player in pro sports to come out as gay, when he made the announcement on April 29.
Normally players reveal their sexuality after retiring, seemingly making it easier for people to handle the revelation.
Now that the first question has been answered, a new one rises: what does this mean for pro sports going forward?
The belief that such a revelation would ruin a player’s life seems to be dispelled with Collin’s choice to come out. Everyone from fellow athletes like Kobe Bryant and Martina Navratilova, to the NBA Commissioner David Stern, former President Bill Clinton and current President Barack Obama have all offered support of Collin’s decision.
Not only is the support pouring in from individuals, but Collins’ only endorsement, Nike, has chosen to stand by and support him.
“We admire Jason’s courage and are proud that he is a Nike athlete,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike believes in a level playing field where an athlete’s sexual orientation is not a consideration.”
The support of a large conglomerate like Nike, which is the leading athletic sponsor for endorsements, goes a long way.
Collins might not have as impressive a career as many of the names that even non-sports fans know like Bryant, but clearly he’s doing something right having a career of ten years.
Clearly his sexuality had no effect on his career or interactions with others on the team, and now that it’s known that he’s gay, it won’t have any effect besides any that others let it have on themselves.
Collins has opened a door that makes it possible for any active athlete that has been hiding their true self to come out into the light with less concern for what might happen.
No longer will athletes have to wait till they retire to come out for fear of repercussions. In fact, in Collins’ case, coming out could be beneficial for more reasons than just being true to himself.
While the main point is that he can be himself, it’s hard to ignore that with coming out, there will be more attention paid not only to Collins through possible endorsements, but in the fact that he will now be seen as the leading spokesman for gay athletes in pro sports.
The courage to come forward could very well be the new image that companies want to associate their brand with, and in the greater picture that isn’t a bad thing at all.