Decision of NBA’s Jason Collins to Come Out Is Empowering

UC Riverside scholar Jennifer Doyle applauds pro player's essay in Sports Illustrated

Jennifer Doyle

Jennifer Doyle writes a popular soccer blog, "From A Left Wing."

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Jason Collins is not the first athlete to come out as gay while playing professionally in the global arena, but he is the first to do so in the United States. And he chose the venerated Sports Illustrated as the forum to tell his story.

Jennifer Doyle, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, writes today in her soccer blog “ From A Left Wing,” “The story (Collins) tells is empowering, and the fact that he is telling the story — that he is controlling the narrative, that he is its author — is important. The relationship between any pro athlete and the media is vexed. SI is willing to be the platform for Collins’s coming out; it is also part of a media culture that surveils him and every other pro athlete in its view; it is part of a public culture that surveils black men with particular violence.”

The decision to come out “is preemptive,” Collins says in SI. “I shouldn’t have to live under the threat of being outed. The announcement should be mine to make, not TMZ’s.”

Two decades after Magic Johnson “blew the sports world’s collective mind” with the revelation that he is HIV positive, Doyle notes in her blog, “Jason Collins writes that he wants to participate in a gay pride march as an out and proud black gay man. He can write, in Sports Illustrated no less, that he wants to get married and have kids — and people understand what he means. He doesn’t sound like a Martian. The desires he expresses are recognizable to a lot of people as normal. Opponents of gay marriage belong to a shrinking — and shrieking — minority. Gay marriage has become so visible a part of the normalization of homosexuality in the U.S. that it’s hard to remember how alien the idea has been.  And how long it’s been that way.”

Doyle is available to comment on Collins, sports and gay athletes. She can be reached at (951) 827-1820 or jennifer.doyle@ucr.edu. Read her blog at fromaleftwing.blogspot.com/2013/04/jason-collins-comes-out-and-leans-in.html.

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Jennifer Doyle
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