Opinion: Collins is to Robinson as I am to Pulitzer

Michael Klein, News Editor

After taking the time to absorb the recently popularized analogy, Jason Collins’ decision to come out as a gay athlete strongly correlates to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, the more it concerns me. While both men’s bravery is commendable and socially significant, use of it as more than an unaffixed correlation is flat out wrong. There are key overlooked factors that significantly weaken the comparability of the two athletes.

The obvious differences are apparent but noteworthy. Firstly, Collins is nowhere near the caliber player that Robinson was. Jason Whitlock, of Fox Sports, argued in his column “The difference in their performance is a total non-issue. The analogy has nothing to do with their level of play.” Is Whitlock saying if Robinson had the same significance, to his team as Collins has to his, he’d still have been instrumental in civil rights? Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives’ Leadership Team Member, Mike Jones, accurately discussed the scenario of Robinson being a second-rate player. “There certainly would have been plenty of whites in the league and in the stands who would have crowed loudly and proudly ‘See, they just can’t cut it, they really are inferior to whites.” Had this been the case, Robinson would likely be a historical footnote and conceivably set the movement for sports integration back decades.

Unlike Robinson, who couldn’t hide what made him different, Collins waited until the twilight of his career and end of a season he played in less than half of, averaged more fouls than points or rebounds and shot under 35 percent. It makes me wonder if Collins’ motivations were genuine, premeditated or realization that his career is likely over. Collins may become a hero to young gay athletes, but had he already been their sports hero, prior to his announcement, wouldn’t that be infinitely more likely to sway popular opinion and/or motivate others? It’s odd to me that Collins is dubbed the first active gay athlete in professional team sports. As he hasn’t played a second, since coming out, and isn’t under contract, how is he considered active?

Collins isn’t even the first NBA basketball player to come out as gay. John Amaechi preceded Collins in 2007; three years after his career had ended. Why isn’t he celebrated the same? In other recent basketball news, Brittney Griner, acknowledged her homosexuality shortly after being selected first-overall in the WNBA draft. Griner was a star in college and projects to be the same as a pro. Most significantly, she came out before her professional career began:, not after amassing more than $32 million in career earnings, like Collins. I’m not arguing whether Collins was courageous. I’m questioning how heroic he is compared to Amaechi and Griner.

Pointing out the erroneousness of celebrating Collins’ dishonesty is an unpopular stance. He had “Gone to enormous lengths to live a lie,” according to his own account. This is not a victimless transgression. Granted, the tempestuousness of a closeted homosexual is an arduous strain unimaginable for a heterosexual: even repented knavery shouldn’t be ceremoniously renowned. Everyone has lies and secrets, but regardless of what information is being withheld or altered, it cannot be held as truth. It’d be more understandable if he lived an asexual lifestyle and never took his masquerade into an intimate relationship with a straight partner. Instead, Collins maintained a heterosexual relationship with Carolyn Moos, a fellow Stanford basketball player for eight years. Moos described her situation since Collins’ announcement, as “probably the most challenging thing that I’ve ever gone through.”

The magnitude of this and its implications cannot be overstated. The beauty of this situation is that it can be discussed seriously and more openly. While some may read this as trivializing or diminishing the importance of Collins’ epiphany, my intentions are simply to put it into more accurate historical context. Jackie Robinson pioneered itinerary for all minority athletes to succeed. Robinson’s breakthroughs lead to the obliteration a sports segregation barrier. Collins simply navigated around his barrier. While his act may lead to a more inclusive league, Robinson transcended his sport in its darkest hour, changed perceptions and the world.