The sports media is making a big deal about Jason Collins being the first openly gay player in the NBA. They are comparing him to Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player. But there is something very different about these two men, and it will make their respective places in sports history much different.
It is this: The Brooklyn Dodgers started Jackie Robinson as a first basemen because he was a terrific ball player. Jackie Robinson was not on the team because he was black. He may have broken the color barrier but that is not why the Dodgers wanted him. They wanted him for his baseball talent which he showed in the black baseball leagues.
Jason Collins is playing on the Brooklyn Mets (under a t0-day contract to be renewed for another 10 days) because he is openly gay. They don’t want him for his talent as a basketball player because it’s not established at this point that he even has any special talent. He might eventually become another Michael Jordan, but that’s not his current value to the Mets. He’s there because he’s gay. He’ll have to play good ball to stay, but right now it’s enough just to be gay.
The times, they’ve changed, brother.
Yes, but guess what? Only the sports media and the Mets owners and management care that Jason Collins is gay. Sports fans couldn’t care less. They only care about exciting basketball games. If he doesn’t perform on the court they’ll care about that, and it won’t matter what his sexual preference happens to be. They loved Jackie Robinson because he was good on the ball field, not because he was black. He could hit and that’s what mattered.