One of the weird things about the ongoing Michael Sam “distraction” debate is that there was an openly gay male professional athlete in a major sport this year, and it was such a distraction that a lot of people seem to have forgotten all about it.
Jason Collins broke down barriers when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets last season, and it was huge news — for a couple of weeks. Rather quickly, though, the fervor dissipated. Part of this was because of how little Collins’ sexual orientation meant to teammates, coaches, opponents and, yes, even reporters, when it came to winning basketball games.
But a big part of the rational and professional handling of the historic moment was also due to Collins himself.
Collins, in an interview with TakePart Live, an online discussion show, again demonstrated his ability to offer a pitch-perfect take on the topic of sexual orientation-related controversy. Asked about Tony Dungy’s recent comments stating he would not have drafted openly gay football player Michael Sam because he “wouldn’t want to deal with all of it,” Collins offered the perfect, subtle takedown of the former NFL coach.
“As an NFL coach, anyone in the NFL, shouldn’t you want all challenges?” Collins said. “As an athlete, I love challenges. I love overcoming obstacles.”
Boom. Roasted. But Collins then pointed to his own experience to outline why he believes Dungy was wrong.
“That being said, I think that personnel, coaches, owners, can look at my example, my journey in the NBA, and see that after two weeks back, it was about basketball,” Collins said. “There were games a month after I was signed that reporters didn’t even ask me any questions. It will always go back to being about the sport, because there’s only so many ways they can write the article. There’s only so many ways they can keep talking about LGBT issues when you’re a professional athlete, because you’re a professional athlete first.”
Collins added that he finds it funny that “distractions” have been created as a stand-in word for people who want to hide their actual prejudices.
“I always go back to humor,” Collins said. “I always laugh whenever I hear a code word being used, whether it be with race, obviously LGBT, I’m sure you (a fellow guest) as a woman, any kind of minority group, you hear people use different code words and you’re like, ‘I know what you’re really saying,’ and I’m above that.”