Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

May 1, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Hold off on praise of Collins

ASHLAND — Jason Collins chose to be gay, and he chose to be up front about that choice.

While there’s something to be said about the latter, I still can’t bring myself to pull from the grab bag of popular adjectives like “brave,” “courageous” and “heroic” to describe the NBA free agent’s decision to declare his sexual orientation in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated.

And, please, let’s refrain from referencing Jackie Robinson, as No. 42’s situation consisted of completely different circumstances.

Race isn’t a choice. Robinson was a black man because Robinson was born a black man.

In my opinion, one’s sexual preference (just as one’s religion) is a lifestyle choice. As a Christian, I’d be wrong to judge Collins for resorting to that path.

Actually, I’m confident that I wouldn’t treat Collins any differently even if I was in the same locker room. And I wouldn’t think more or less of him if I was a fan of his team.

What he does off the field is up to him.

What’s unsettling to me is that society deems it OK to criticize Tim Tebow about being up front about his religion, but if someone chooses not to praise Jason Collins for coming out as gay, then that’s socially unacceptable, politically incorrect.

This is a complicated subject, isn’t it?

To eliminate some of the touchiness of the topic, I’ll be sports-specific for a moment.

Here are the 7-footer’s career numbers in the NBA: 3.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds a game and half a block per contest.

At 34, Collins is now looking for a job. He played for both the Celtics and Wizards this past season before becoming a free agent.

If he doesn’t get another playing opportunity, are NBA teams homophobic? No. That decision will be based on his production on the court.

And fans aren’t homophobic, either, if they choose to not crown Collins the king of courage.

In sports, let’s save the showering of praise for athletic accomplishments. Let’s limit the calls from the White House, too (yes, Collins received a ring from the president).

Collins was the first active athlete in one of the four major professional sports to announce that he’s gay, and there will likely be more to follow.

Somebody had to be the first, and while that took a leap out of his comfort zone, I prefer to preserve words like “brave,” “courageous” and “heroic” to use in other situations. Does that make me brave?

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