Will NBA Player Jason Collins' Coming Out Have A Ripple Effect?

NBA player Jason Collins come out as gay. You may have heard that NBA center Jason Collins made history today. It wasn't for his ball-playing. He came out as gay, making him the first major professional athlete to come out during his career.

In a story for Sports Illustrated, on their site today, Collins wrote, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." In the article, Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, most recently for the Washington Wizards, explains that he decided to go public after the Boston bombings. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

Supportive tweets from colleagues poured in.Wizards Baron Davis on the Knicks tweeted, "I am so proud of my bro @jasoncollins for being real." Even Kobe Bryant -- who a few years back was fined after a homophobic outburst -- tweeted out praise. "Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," he wrote. Washington Wizards team president said the team was "extremely proud" of Collins' decision to "live his life proudly and openly."

Whether Collins' decision to come out will affect his ability to get another NBA job isn't clear (he's currently a free agent). But in 29 states, it's still legal to be fired for being gay because there aren't laws that specifically prevent discrimination against gay workers. Still, there have been huge strides made in gay rights in the past few years. Recently, gay men and women won the right to serve openly in the military, and gay troops sipped champagne with their commander-in-chief at the Pentagon's first gay pride reception. And last year when Anderson Cooper announced he was gay, it barely made a stir in the broadcast world.

But almost half of college-educated professionals say they remain in the closet at work. Last year, AOL Jobs noted five industries that were still inhospitable to gay workers. Professional sports, especially football, was top on the list, but with Collins' announcement, do you think that will change soon?

See the slideshow below.

You can read the rest of Collins' Sports Illustrated article here.

5 Hardest Industries To Come Out In
See Gallery
Will NBA Player Jason Collins' Coming Out Have A Ripple Effect?

In July 2012, U.S. Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe came out publicly as gay (she was already out to her family and teammates). In doing so, she joined a crowded club. There are plenty of openly lesbian sportswomen, but distinctly fewer openly gay male athletes, especially in the biggest money-making sports: football, basketball and baseball.

"The climate is much different for men," Rapinoe told USA Today. "That stigma is only going to be broken when people come out and see that there is a positive response."

Wade Davis chipped away at the stigma in June 2012, when he became the fourth former NFL player to come out of the closet. No NFL player has ever admitted to being gay while still playing the game. "The NFL has a reputation," retired lineman Roy Simmons told The New York Times in 2002, "and it's not even a verbal thing -- it's just kind of known. You are gladiators; you are male; you kick butt."

"You can be a wife-beater, do drugs, get in a car wreck, and the team will take care of you," said Butch Woolfolk, a former running back who played with Simmons. "But if you're gay, it's like the military: Don't ask, don't tell."

In April 2012, the Boy Scouts of America told Jennifer Tyrrell that she would no longer be needed as a troop leader, or a member at all. She would no longer take her scouts to a soup kitchen or help them collect canned food. She would no longer teach them the values of compassion, citizenship and respect. She didn't meet the Boy Scouts' "high standards," they said. She was raising her four children with another woman.

The Boy Scouts of America's policy against openly gay leaders and youths has attracted a lot of attention recently. Tyrrell's Change.org petition garnered over 300,000 signatures. Both President Obama and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have urged the 3.7 million-strong organization to change its ways. Even actor Chuck Norris chimed in, chastising the president for his "pro-gay Boy Scouts of America" agenda.

Although the Boy Scouts recently proposed allowing gay youths to join as members, it doesn't plan on changing a ban on gay adults.

Industries that are hit frequently by sex discrimination lawsuits often aren't the best places for gay men and women either. Macho cultures tend to work that way. And there are few cultures as manly as Wall Street.

In the mid-1990s, trader Walter Shubert tried to hide his sexual identity. "I was going through the motions and as unhappy as you could possibly be," he told High Brow magazine. "My spirit had died." When he finally came out to his sister as gay, she put him in touch with a therapist. "I'm the only gay man on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange," Shubert told him.

Of course, that wasn't true. Joe Daniel, a vice president at Dresdner Bank, actually sued his employer for $75 million in 1998 after he came out -- and was fired in a "company-wide downsize" in which he reputedly was the only victim. The outcome of the suit is confidential, but its ripples spread, slowly making the financial world more aware and welcoming of the gay men and women in its midst. But it still hasn't totally reformed from what it was in the '90s, when "there was no way to build a career on the trading floor as an openly gay man," as Shubert put it. "It was a locker-room environment. [Gay] jokes were rampant."

Appeal is the greatest asset of a leading man or lady, and the bigger it is, the higher the box office. That's why the movie-making machinery is still a little nervous about casting an openly gay person in a major role. Big chunks of America might boycott the film, and teen girls might be less likely to buy posters of the hunky star if they know that he doesn't have a thing for girls at all.

"There are no openly gay stars in Hollywood, so someone is telling them to shut up," Ian McKellen told Popeater. "In Hollywood," film industry "spin doc" Howard Bragman told the LA Weekly, "most publicists keep their clients in the closet. And I'm the guy people tend to come to when they want to come out of the closet."

Bragman helped "Bewitched" star Dick Sargent come out, as well as "Party of Five" actor Mitchell Anderson. But there are still no A-listers on the level of a Will Smith or Brad Pitt willing to take the plunge. Although rumors, of course, are rampant. And lore has it that such cinema icons as Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, had surreptitious same-sex liaisons.

In the 1960s, police would regularly raid gay bars, arrest the patrons, and out them publicly in local newspapers. Given this history, it's little surprise that many police forces across the country remain hostile to sexual minorities.

In March 2010, three officers sued a North Carolina police department, claiming that it had a pervasively homophobic work environment presided over by a chief who retaliated against those who spoke out. "There's just a culture of permissiveness," said plaintiff Darin DeFreece. "If somebody has an anti-gay ideology, they can and will say things that are really offensive, and they are never called on it."

In June 2011, Andrew Johnson, who worked at a women's correctional institute in Chino, Calif., was denied a request to march in the annual L.A. Pride Parade in West Hollywood. He was told that it would bring "discredit" to the department, he claimed. But once noted lawyer Gloria Allred took up his cause, the department quickly relented.

And as recently as March 2012, an officer with the St. Cloud, Minn., police department received a $73,000 settlement after he claimed that he was discriminated against when he asked to work a booth at a local gay pride festival.

Despite these lawsuits, many police forces are profoundly tolerant, with their own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations. And while some may discourage members from participating in pride parades, some march en masse.


Read Full Story