Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Instant Commendation, Instant Condemnation: The Jason Collins Coming Out Story, Right, Left and Center.

"I will guarantee you if the ownership of whatever team is thinking about bringing him back or thinking about trading for him - and they go to the players on that team and they say 'how do you feel about an out, active homosexual being in the same locker room sharing the same shower facilities with you' they'd say 'no way. I don't want that. I don't want some guy, a teammate eyeballin' me in the shower and my wife does not want that." Bryan Fischer - Focal Point - American Family Association. (see full video below)
The most celebrated cover in the history of Sports Illustrated, may not be for one of its swim suit issues. It may, in fact, feature the most masculine and courageous athlete of the year: in the current issue, Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards (and formerly of the Boston Celtics) comes out as gay, becoming the first openly gay player in a major American professional team sport.

The news hit the internet yesterday morning, and the response has been positive, garnering a call from President Obama in support of the player and his decision to come out of the closet. In fact, an avalanche of support from celebrities and sports figures including Magic Johnson, John Amaechi and Chris Kluwe came in tweets immediately.

Unfortunately, some condemning tweets chimed in as well. Note these by Breitbarters:

Perhaps the most egregious response was that of ESPN sportscaster Chris Broussard who said:

"If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian."
Unfortunately, he said it to LZ Granderson who retorted: “I really don’t need Chris or anyone else telling me if I’m a Christian because Jesus tells me I am.”

Granderson is gay. Oooops.

The exchange spawned a number of tweets with the hashtag #IStandWithChris. Most of them were of the Fundamentalist variety, but some were downright NSFW in their descriptive homophobia.

Whither NOM?

Among the responses, it is interesting to note that no one (as yet), has mentioned the fact that Jason Collins stated he is both BLACK and gay. The (now) infamous strategy by The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategy - to "drive a wedge" between the black and gay communities - is rendered ineffective - or irrelevant. It will be interesting to see NOM's response - if any is forthcoming.

Left, Right and Center

In the past, the responses to Collins' statement could have been characterized as Left (supportive), Right (Collins is sinful) and Center (really doesn't matter). However, in today's increasingly polarized society, Center has almost faded away. Social media like Twitter has shown us just how confrontational we have gotten when it comes to issues like gay rights: the immediacy of support or condemnation causes a huge rush to join whatever side you feel you are on. And if you are silent on the issue, both sides take the silence as assent for the other side.

In the end, perhaps, the most important outcome of Jason Collins' coming out may be the responses ... and the amount of them: so far, the supportive responses seem to outnumber the negative ones, which may cause a fierce backlash by pundits weightier than Bryan Fischer. Rush Limbaugh will certainly voice concern over the fact that Obama took it (too) seriously. Sounds of dismay coming from the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins will certainly be forthcoming, but will FOX News' Sean Hannity join the fray? Will Bill O'Reilly? Will Glenn Beck find a conspiracy in there somewhere?

The coming days will be cause for reflection ... and amusement.

Thank you, Jason Collins.

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