90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The NBA’s Jason Collins Comes Out

NBA Center Jason Collins comes out. We talk about what it means to be openly gay in sports and beyond.

In a Wednesday, April 17, 2013 file photo, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, right, battles for a rebound against Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago. (AP)

In a Wednesday, April 17, 2013 file photo, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, right, battles for a rebound against Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago. (AP)

NBA man-in-the-middle Jason Collins has just wrapped up a season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent.  Not a huge story, until you add one ingredient.  He is, as of yesterday, the first ever openly gay male athlete still active in a major American team sport.

It’s a big step for him and for the others who may follow his lead.  So far the response from the court of public opinion, from fellow players and the NBA brass has been overwhelmingly positive.  Is this a tipping point in major American sports?

This hour, On Point: The NBA’s Jason Collins takes center court.

Guests

Franz Lidz, co-authored with NBA free agent Jason Collins the cover story in the May 6th issue of Sports Illustrated: “Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now.”

Kevin Blackistone, teaches sports journalism at the University of Maryland. Panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn. (@profblackistone)

LZ Granderson, journalist and commentator for CNN and ESPN. 2008 and 2010 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing. (@locs_n_laughs)

Martina Navratilova, tennis legend, winner of 59 Grand Slam crowns, and a record 9 Wimbledon singles championships. One of the first openly gay sports figures. (@martina)

Show Excerpts

On Point guest host Jane Clayson asked Navratilova about how being a gay athlete was different for men and women:

JANE CLAYSON: Is this at all different, Martina Navratilova for male athletes than for female athletes? Is there a culture within big game sports that makes being gay harder for a male than for a female athlete?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well I think a lot of straight girls don’t even go into sports because they don’t want to be bullied and be called a lesbian. It’s like if you’re an athlete woman out there, you have to prove your heterosexuality. For guys it’s the other way around. When you’re playing football it’s assumed you are straight because, of course, gay guys are sissies and they wouldn’t want to play football! And so it’s almost understood that of course you are straight because this is a macho sport.

But on the other hand to me, it would make it easier for me to come out because I am obviously so macho: I am playing football, so you have a problem with my sexuality? Really? Watch me tackle. Watch me run with the ball. So it’s funny that it’s taken this long.

But again for team sport athletes it’s much more difficult, because they could totally be blackballed out of the league.

We were also joined by openly gay journalist and commentator LZ Granderson, who used a personal story to reflect on the importance of athletes being able to be open about their sexual orientation:

LZ GRANDERSON: I’ll give you some full disclosure. I was approached by a closeted gay athlete – I’m gay. And this athlete was interested in dating me, and you know he was cool or whatever, but I said to him: was he willing to have me sit in the family and friends section of the arena? And was he willing to have me attend events with him as his date? Because if he wasn’t willing to do that, then I wasn’t willing be his boyfriend.

That’s not advertising one’s sexual orientation, that’s just being treated as a human being and as a loving couple and as an equal. So the fact that these individuals that are still closeted in the big four sports don’t feel comfortable bringing their loved ones to the family and friends section isn’t about advertising or shoving anything down anyone’s throat, it’s about being able to live like a whole human being like everyone else.

You don’t think you’re asking someone’s sexual orientation when you say things like, are you married? But you are. Because if they reveal the gender of the person that you are married to, you indirectly have asked that person’s sexual orientation. Just because you haven’t say the word “gay,” doesn’t mean you aren’t asking if they are.

From The Reading List

Sports Illustrated: Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now — “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

Los Angeles Times: Brittney Griner acknowledges she’s gay, says ‘just be who you are’ — “Ex-Baylor star Brittney Griner likes to remind all the girls and young women who idolize her to just be themselves and not worry what others think. Griner was doing just that this week while discussing her sexual orientation, apparently for the first time with the media. The new member of the Phoenix Mercury, chosen No. 1 overall in Monday’s WNBA, did not make a big deal about the fact that she is a lesbian, making no big coming-out announcement.”

The Boston Herald: Jason Collins gets ball rolling for all players in closet — “True, you can make the case that the conversation has been ongoing for some time now. But what Washington Wizards (and former Boston Celtics) center Jason Collins has done, via his coming-out essay in Sports Illustrated, is crank up the volume to such a degree that his voice, his message, is going to be clanging off the walls of locker rooms across North America and beyond for a long, long time.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 31, 2014
Nurse Kaci Hickox, right, and her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur are followed by a Maine State Trooper as they ride bikes on a trail near her home in Fort Kent, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.  (AP)

Quarantines and Ebola. An exploding rocket. Apple’s CEO comes out. Hawaiian lava flows. Midterms in the home stretch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 31, 2014
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Sauncho Smilax (Beninico del Toro) share a drink in a scene from the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, "Inherent Vice," an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment)

from “Interstellar” to “Into the Woods.” The biggest and best movies of the fall and holiday seasons. What to see, what to skip.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 30, 2014
Soylent is a new meal-replacement substance meant to offer a complete nutritional alternative to traditional food. (Courtesy Soylent)

Soylent is a grey smoothie the consistency of pancake batter that claims it can replace all your food. On a crowded planet, is this the future of food? Plus: what does the Antares rocket crash mean for private space travel?

 
Oct 30, 2014
Realtor Helen Hertz stands in front of one of her listings in Cleveland Heights, Ohio Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. Hertz, a real estate agent for more than three decades, has seen firsthand what has happened to the market in the wake of the recession and foreclosure crisis. (AP)

Home ownership rates are at a 20-year low. Millennials and more aren’t buying. We’ll look at what American’s think now about owning a home.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
A Bit More On The History Of Quarantine
Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

So this whole quarantine thing — why to do it, when to do it, and when to just say no.

More »
Comment
 
The Explicast, Episode Two: Why Is Election Day On A Tuesday?
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The Explicast is back for another round. This time, we’re looking at Election Day, and why we all keep voting on a random Tuesday in early November.

More »
2 Comments
 
Our Week In The Web: October 24, 2014
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

On comments, comment sections, and ROY G BIV.

More »
Comment