Alfred Anderson | Staff Writer
This past April, Washington Wizards Center Jason Collins made headlines when he announced to the American public that he is gay. Thus, he became the first openly gay African American male professional athlete. Collins, a 12 year NBA veteran, has played for six teams throughout his career, including the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics, averaging a little over three points and three rebounds a game, according to Sports Illustrated.
“I’m a 34 year-old NBA Center. I’m black and I’m gay,” said Collins. “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.” In the months following his announcement, he has dominated headlines, seemingly becoming the poster child for gay athletes in America and perhaps even inspiring other athletes to come out as well.
Just a few weeks earlier however, WNBA player and former Baylor University standout Brittney Griner also publicly announced that she is gay in a Sports Illustrated interview. Initially, her announcement didn’t make quite as many headlines; weeks later however, it was revealed that Baylor was advised that she keep her sexual orientation a private matter. “It was a recruiting thing,” says Griner. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor.” But if Griner’s accolades are any indication, her personal preferences did nothing to hold her back. According to ESPN, Griner was a three time All-American and became the second all-time leading scorer in women’s NCAA history during her 4 years at Baylor. In April, she was the No.1 pick of the WNBA and began her professional career with the Phoenix Mercury that following month.
More recently, another African American athlete made headlines after announcing his sexual orientation. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstar Darren Young revealed to reporters that he is gay while traveling through the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) earlier this month. A TMZ reporter asked Young if he thought that a gay wrestler could succeed in the WWE, to which Young responded: “Absolutely. Look at me. I’m a WWE superstar and to be honest with you, I’ll tell you right now, I’m gay. And I’m happy. I’m very happy.”
With news of African American professional athletes coming out becoming more and more frequent, student athletes at N.C. State have voiced their opinions on the matter. “I personally think that it’s not a shocker,” says Defensive End Mike Rose. “It is something that I believe can be good and bad because it lets people themselves, but it could also stress others out…those that can’t comprehend the idea of being gay.”
Track star Jazmyne Childs also said, “I am not surprised by this. I don’t feel it is significant because sexuality and athletic ability have nothing to do with each other. As an athlete, I feel that our athletic abilities are shadowed by too many social issues that don’t matter.”
Perhaps, with African American athletes now proudly announcing their sexual orientations, this matter won’t be as controversial or significant in the future. Athletes should be seen for what they are- athletes, without such a huge focus being placed on their sexual preferences.