Gay player’s free agency has nothing to do with orientation
In April, the traditions of one of the world’s most influential organizations were shattered with three catalytic words — Jason Collins’ announcement of his homosexuality.
No athlete in the history of the NBA had ever made such an announcement, and Collins might have considered April 29 as the last guaranteed day of his ability to call himself a professional athlete.
After becoming the NBA’s first openly gay man, Collins found his declaration was warmly, wholeheartedly welcomed by the vast majority of Americans, especially the media. Kobe Bryant announced his support for Collins via Twitter, and The New York Times cited Collins as the athlete who “shattered one of the last great barriers in professional sports.”
Even the surprisingly open-minded Lil Wayne remarked on how well-received Collins’ announcement was within the public eye. “Just to see how many people came to his support and things like that, that’s a pretty fair world out there,” Lil Wayne said. It was April 2013, and life was pretty good for Jason Collins.
Five months later, Collins is still unsigned and left scratching his head, speculating as to what exactly went wrong.
The New York Times has labeled Collins as a marginally average player at best, noting that he averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
For the overwhelming amount of people who deduce no meaning from that stat, including myself, Houston’s Omer Asik averages 10.1 points per game. Granted, Asik is an incredibly gifted center, but the wide discrepancy in points per game shows that the aging Collins isn’t as desirable athletically as he may be to, say, a late-night talk show or newspaper editorial.
Broadcast journalism junior Taha Ali expresses his discontent with those that assume the NBA is being discriminatory based on Collins’ sexual orientation.
“Collins wasn’t even that good when he got out of college — he’s been playing poorly for years, and he’s been kept on the rosters because he’s a stand-up guy and probably boosts morale,” Ali said.
“If Collins didn’t just come out as being gay, him going unsigned this year wouldn’t be a surprise at all.”
The timing of Collins’ announcement and professional stagnation is incredibly unfortunate, yes, especially to those who assume the two have some sort of correlation.
What’s important here, though, is to not assume that the NBA or the Washington Wizards — the last team Collins played for — are discriminating against Collins based on sexual orientation.
Statistically speaking, Collins’ career isn’t exactly flourishing.
The only reason this has cracked the media is because of who Collins is, and while that’s certainly justifiable in this particular instance, it’s important that we do not afford certain privileges to people based on factors outside of situational relevance.
Slamming the NBA for neglecting to offer Collins a gig based on sexuality is discrimination — it’s assuming Collins should have gotten something based on his orientation, which is no different than wishing less upon those with the opposite orientation.
Whether it be positively or negatively, treating people differently based on whom they’re attracted to and expecting things to pan out differently based on said preferences is undeniably discrimination, regardless of the intent behind it.
He’s an aging, unexceptional athlete, and until the NBA announces otherwise, it’s best we assume that Collins’ athletic shortcomings are the only reasons he hasn’t signed any contracts.
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]