Time and place.
There is a time and place for everything, we are told, and we should limit ourselves to conversations on certain subject matters to the appropriate times in the appropriate venues.
That these words, inspired by Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay athlete in the NBA, finally reach you days after the news cycle ran its course following Sports Illustrated breaking the story would suggest I've chosen an inappropriate time. That you are reading them on a website dedicated primarily to covering the San Antonio Spurs would lead some to suggest that I've chosen an inappropriate venue.
But I wanted to discuss Jason Collins, and I wanted to do so from this platform that has been provided to me to reach all of you.
What I didn't want to do is offer up some half-baked post for the sake of timeliness, simply because I had not dedicated enough personal time on the matter in the past to provide the fully-fledged thoughts this subject deserves. Others, like ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz–an openly gay sportswriter who covers the game of basketball far better than I ever could–have enough life experience to qualify as experts and you should give them a read.
I wanted to read and observe, and not just those charged with providing the commentary, but the reactions they provoked. Many showered Collins with support, most notably and importantly his peers in the NBA. Naturally, some responses weren't as cordial or understanding.
I needed this time to gather and evolve my thoughts so that I might try to contribute to the conversation in a way that might resonate with as many people as possible.
For the record, I support Jason Collins for who he is and his decision to make this part of his life a matter of public record. Those that agree with me were always going to support that statement, and those that don't, well, nothing I could write would sway their opinion on the matter anyway.
But there are some universal truths acceptable to all beliefs that can steer this conversation in a way that provokes positive change. This is not a political matter, a liberal matter, a conservative matter, or even a religious matter. This is a matter of human civility.
Jason Collins is a hero, and his story matters.
Being homosexual, in itself, does not make Collins a hero. Being open about something that many of us would agree is his own personal business does not make him a hero either. Being the first open, active male professional athlete is a burden, one that he acknowledges. It leaves him a target for persecution and threats for simply living in a manner we take for granted.
That ESPN's Chris Broussard would feel the need to greet Collins announcement by screaming from rooftops (well, national television anyway) that he's a sinner in an "open rebellion against God" is evidence enough that Collins, or any gay athlete, wouldn't be able to live their life honestly without a scene being made of it. Yes, you can live your life privately, but that shouldn't mean one should have to constantly lie about it publicly.
Following Collins announcement there were some that questioned why this should be a big deal. Local radio conservative talk show host Joe "Pags", a recent national anthem performer to open a Spurs playoff game, felt the need to announce his heterosexuality and wonder why publicity or President's phone calls didn't find their way to him.
People like "Pags" or Broussard can state they are tolerant of homosexuals while disagreeing with who they are, and perhaps some of you follow in their stances. But that does not account for the countless number of people, children even, who are bullied and assaulted every day of their lives by bigoted, hateful people. There are young people that would rather die than be who they are because people like that make their lives a living hell.
Regardless of what your beliefs might be, we can agree this is wrong.
Here are indisputable truths that fall outside whatever your opinions might be–Jason Collins is gay. There are people in this world that will threaten him for it. The same people threaten and cause harm to countless number of people everyday for their sexual orientation. In Collins, those people have someone to look to for hope.
Why disparage that? Why show so little compassion for your fellow man that you would have to actively go out of your way to tell them that none of this matters? Just because you do not agree with who they are doesn't mean you are justified in turning your back on how much they suffer.
You can criticize the media
There were never two sides to this story, and that ESPN would attempt to position it as a debate is reprehensible. Broussard's beliefs have long been known, and one can imagine that someone within the network saw this as an opportunity to exploit those beliefs to drum up controversy and ratings.
Responsible journalism would have reported his announcement, gathered reactions from his peers, turned to informed analysts to give insight on the subject matter, as they did with Arnovitz. Broussard is one of ESPN's basketball reporters, but the scope of his commentary had nothing to do with basketball and delved into areas far outside his expertise.
We know little of his credentials as a Christian, but we do know his viewpoints do not represent all of Christianity. There was no reason for his presence or words. Collins stating he is gay is not inflammatory. Kevin Arnovitz offering his insight as a gay man that lives his life openly is not inflammatory, and comes from a knowledgeable source. Broussard's comments were inflammatory and best left for blogs, message boards or Twitter.
It is okay to talk about this
Twitter is a place where we can discuss anything freely. Though I'm sure some found out that broaching such "controversial" topics come with consequences if they are accountable to a boss or editor. Which is a disappointment.
There were some outlets that skipped discussing this topic altogether, no doubt skipping over the hassles that come with such a hot button topic and potentially alienating readers. But honestly, if not realistically, the only audiences that would deem this topic too explosive to discuss are those with views too extreme to be reasoned with, and those are people we shouldn't really be pandering to anyway.
Again, there were many that, regardless of their views on homosexuality, simply wanted the discussion to cease and for things to return to normal.
But normal sucks. We shouldn't want normal. Normal is TMZ tracking down Magic Johnson's gay son while people like Jason Collins expend energy to cover their tracks. Normal is people like Broussard reminding us that tolerance and respect are two completely different things, not stopping to realize that without respect for a human being there can be no compassion, which is the fundamental key to his own religion. Normal is people like "Pags" thinking because they tolerate homosexuals, we can all turn our backs to those that torture them and the suffering incurred by victims.
Regardless of our views on homosexuality, we should all demand better from our views on people. Any belief system that says otherwise, quite frankly, isn't one worth having or defending.
There is a time and place for everything. Unfortunately, not all of us are so fortunate as to be able to compartmentalize this discussion and bring it out at our convenience. We can have this discussion, and we can do it better than we're doing it right now. What better place than here, what better time than now?