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Every now and then the sports world collides with the social/political world. Sometimes you get the feeling that days like today will probably be remembered for a long time coming.
Today the sports world joined the political world in taking a giant step forward. No, this has nothing to do with Tim Tebow though that did happen today.
But it has to do with Jason Collins. Collins, a 34-year old journeyman veteran, announced that he is in fact a gay man. Collins wrote an incredibly moving piece regarding his decision to publicly announce his sexuality for Sports Illustrated and has gone viral on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Yet what does this have to do with politics? Collins credits freshman congressman Joseph Kennedy III (yes, from THAT Kennedy family) for helping him come out. Collins writes:
I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.“
We now live in an era in which politicians feel no qualms in marching with and for the gay community. Maybe a decade ago (though maybe longer ago), Kennedy would’ve been seen as some sort of rogue liberal and would be part of the minority of representatives that even acknowledged the gay community, let alone march with them.
Kennedy is also one of the youngest members of Congress and a representative of the generational change that will be occurring in the United States Congress over the next decade or two. The younger generation supports the idea of marriage equality with 71% in approval.
That’s what we are witnessing, the younger generation has made moments like this happen.
But then again, it takes bravery by one individual to create a tidal wave of change and support. Jason Collins might very well go down in history as the “first openly gay athlete” to come out while playing in one of America’s big four sports (hockey, baseball, basketball and football) and that might be unfair to him. Then again, his bravery in dealing with that may have saved a life or two. It may have convinced others to join him and maybe convince some people around him that the idea of marriage equality isn’t so bad.
Today was a day to remember. Thanks to Jason Collins.