If Jason Collins had done an ESPN Offices commercial, in which he gave Linda Cohen fashion tips, called Craig Sager's suits “fabulous”, and asked Tim Tebow to hike him the ball to move in for a tushy pinch in the break room, then maybe they'd respect his historical announcement. But ESPN is clearly bitter.
In an article with Sports Illustrated, Jason Collins announced he is gay, making him the first openly gay male professional athlete in one of the four major American pro team sports—a stipulation we must include so as not to offend figure skaters who've crossed the threshold. It is a big day for sports, a big win for gay athletes, and specifically gay black men in America. Unless, you're watching ESPN. On ESPN it is a day of pondering what's next for the recently outed (as in swept) Lakers. The answer: relaxation, off-season training and rehabilitation, a new coach, free agency, and another season at the Staples Center, much like every summer for the Lakers—just come sooner. It's a big day for Tim Tebow who will have a bright summer, being the center of attention in the media as they wonder what pine he'll hide in the 2013 season.
As for Jason Collins, he's recently been elevated to second in the headlines coverage and apparently speculation is still out since the headline reads “Jason Collins says he's gay.” Says. It's a word in the media often reservered for athletes who surmise a decision. Lebron James says he wants to finish his career in Cleveland. Brett Favre says after this season he's retiring. “Says” is typically reserved for fickle athletes who's words are deemed “not worth salt.” Today on ESPN, Jason Collins didn't come out. He said he was gay, which means there's a window that he won't be gay and will sign with the Mavericks—he's a free agent after all.
ESPN is one Bitter Betty with a case of the Mondays. It stings that much that he told his story to Sports Illustrated?
David Stern is proud of Collins for being a leader in an important issue. The Wizards didn't keep him around, but President Ernie Grunfeld is proud of Collins and supports his now open lifestyle. Collins' former coach Doc Rivers compared him to Jackie Robinson, as did the Human Rights Campaign. The Clintons are tweeting about it, for crying out loud. But flip the station to ESPN to hear an ESPN.com reporter LZ Granderson, a gay black man himself, describe today's events as “not that shocking” and retell his tweets on air about jokes regarding twin telepathy. “Thanks for calling in Granderson and helping us make light banter of Jason Collin's bravery.“
Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength & courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA. bit.ly/ZLei9F
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 29, 2013
No one is shocked and no one should be. The reaction is usually pride, that five-letter word gays in America have dedicated an entire week to celebrating. It's not shocking that an athlete is gay in 2013. It's shocking that no one had the courage to be an active male, gay professional athlete until 2013. I don't want to villify Granderson for his call-in. Sheryl Swoopes came out to him in 2005 and he's been an activist for the GLBT community his entire career. It's shocking that he went on air to tell the ESPN viewership that he's gay and it's just another day for him. Even though, this has never happened before.
“It was part of the fabric, but it wasn't overwhelming for me.” You can have that one, Granderson – after all, Sheryl. You are more deeply connected to the situation than I am. I appreciate your well-crafted points on whether a team will sign Collins, considering he's a 34-year old big man with playoff experience, and questioning the level of acceptance it will carry by comparing it to former Suns owner Rick Welts coming out. You're a fine sports reporter in that regard. It by no means is your duty to be a cheerleader for Collins. But again, why not offer a little pride? It's not your job to sensationalize his announcement like say a piece on Tim Tebow's off-season future. But it's hard to believe ESPN, a machine Granderson is only a spoke within, is taking the high road on homosexuality in sports by shrugging Collins off. It's hard not view them as bitter for Collins taking his story to a rival elsewhere instead of doing a “The Decision” level TV special in which they film an actual closet door and speculate will Jason Collins walk out of it or not?
The answer after these commercials for the X-Games.