(Courtesy Sports Illustrated) (Courtesy Sports Illustrated)

Just how big a deal is it that Jason Collins has openly declared that he is a gay athlete?

His twin brother probably put it best. Jarron Collins, like Jason, was a 2001 NBA draft pick and he writes in Sports Illustrated that “It’s a big deal — but it’s also not a big deal.”

It is a big deal, a very big deal if Jason Collins is the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes, if his proclamation encourages others and fosters an open, accepting and relaxed atmosphere in locker rooms. That was the sentiment from athletes everywhere today. But there’s still a long way to go until it’s no big deal, until it doesn’t merit the cover of Sports Illustrated, until leagues don’t have to warn teams not to ask about the preferences of incoming rookies, until athletes no longer make homophobic slurs.

“This announcement will be surprising to some people. I already anticipate the questions: “Are you the gay twin or the straight one?” This is uncharted territory, and no one can predict how it will play out,” Jarron Collins writes. “It’s a big deal — but it’s also not a big deal. When the media crush is over, Jason will have the strength to deal with whatever challenges come from being openly gay.

“As for us, we’re still going to give each other grief. (He’s still going to be a terrible golfer; he’s still the guy who could help more with changing my kids’ diapers.) We’ll still be competitive in our way. As kids we were always pushing each other, whether it was for good grades or for possession of the remote control. As NBA players we both wanted to be stronger, so each summer we would have a “liftoff” to see who could put up more weight.

“Today, Jason has taken a huge weight off his shoulders. And I’ve never been more proud of him.”

Now, we await the next milestone: An openly gay, active athlete who’s also a superstar, a household name with plenty of endorsements and a job as a starter on the line.



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