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Kavitha A. Davidson

Like It or Not, Jason Collins Is a Big Deal

In case you missed it, Jason Collins made history this past weekend, becoming the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major professional sports.
Photographer: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images
Photographer: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

In case you missed it, Jason Collins made history this past weekend, becoming the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major professional sports. Less than a year after coming out, Collins signed a 10-day contract with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets, stepping onto the court with little fanfare to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the middle of Sunday's game.

Compared to the buzz that has surrounded NFL prospect Michael Sam's coming out in recent weeks, Collins' signing flew under the radar. Many have hailed the quiet nature of the move as a sign of progress -- that we've reached a point in our society at which being gay in professional sports is no longer a big deal. ESPN's Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser postured that Sam's spotlight has eclipsed Collins' (even though Sam has yet to actually make an active roster and his recent performance at the NFL Combine disappointed many scouts). "I think it's no big deal and that's exactly the way it should be," said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, himself no stranger to lending his loud mouth to seemingly innocuous issues. And while these comments simply serve to downplay the role of one historic moment in a broad arch of progress, others have been more forthcoming about the prejudices that inform their wishes to keep Collins' sexual orientation out of headlines. As many Breitbart commenters predictably stated, "Keep it in the bedroom." (That this is akin to telling Collins to stay in the closet is completely lost on these people.)