NBA center Jason Collins(Photo via AP)
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- When a controversial event occurs it tests us, tests us in a way so subtle that sometimes we don't even know the exam is underway. Jason Collins' announcement that he was gay spun the news cycle on its axis and it still hasn't stopped rotating.
By the way, each time I broach this issue, I try to catch myself to make sure I avoid saying "Jason Collins' admission." The word admission seems so punitive as if he was admitting guilt, for example: "I admit your honor I was speeding, or I admit your honor I didn't pay my taxes." In my mind, Collins didn't need to admit anything.
Since Collins' announcement, however, everywhere I go I've been asked for my opinion on the issue. My response always centers on the word courageous. In such an ultra-masculine culture, it took guts for him to step out on his own and make such a statement. Typically after I give my opinion, a lengthy conversation commences.
For me, this is where the important moment begins. The discussion. Sexual orientation and its place in the larger sports culture is a hot-button issue that most want to wax about. I welcome the conversation, the knowledge, and the education.
Discussing it, however, forces us to use our brain cells. Recently, a neighbor began bending my ear about gay players in locker rooms and felt it would cause serious problems. I disagreed. Fair enough. His words, however, were coarse, disrespectful, and hurtful toward the Gay and Lesbian communities. I tuned him out after a few minutes.
That's what people tend to forget when discussing issues that don't have universal support. Respect matters. You have every right to disagree with homosexuality, but you have a responsibility to discuss it in a well thought out manner. You also have a responsibility to listen and acknowledge opposing viewpoints.
Think how often you see a standoff at an abortion debate, or gun control rally. Are there substantive, thoughtful people there? Of course. But they're often drowned out by utter ignorance, complements of both sides by the way. Whenever I see these stories on television I often find myself thinking how much time is wasted arguing and not learning.
In the aftermath of Collins' announcement, most offered support while some voiced opposition.
By now you've heard ESPN's Chris Broussard's take that Collins is a man living in "open rebellion to God." He continued by saying, "personally, I don't believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly ... like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you're openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says 'you know them by their fruits, it says that, you know, that's a sin."
Like many of us, I've spent plenty of Sundays at church and do consider myself spiritual, but I'm just not willing to roll with Broussard on this one. After all, if we're doling out sin violations based upon the Bible, don't we all have to stand in line?
But I respect Broussard's opinion and that's where these debates get tough. Society at large has to learn how to tolerate differences of opinion on issues like this and then move on. Give Broussard credit. If you read or listen to his entire statement, he himself showed flexibility in thinking when he said, "I'm fine with homosexuals, I disagree [with being gay], but disagree respectfully ... I don't have any problem with homosexuals."
When put that way, his take becomes tolerable and quite frankly, very real. Truth is, when it comes to controversial issues like this, we probably all have similar levels of agreement and disagreement.
Jason Collins is not changing his way of life based upon whether you agree or disagree with him. His announcement, however, was crucial in that it put the issue on the table for us to discuss, and hopefully grow. That's the test.
Do we resort to positive growth or revert to insult-laden hatemongering? Let's hope the former.
Years from now I believe we'll look back on sexual orientation in sports culture similarly to how we viewed Magic Johnson's admission in 1992 that he had HIV. There was a lot of ignorance then but we got smarter over the years. My hope is we work towards a similar epiphany, and along the way discuss sexual orientation in the greater sports culture in a sane, professional, respectful manner.