Basketball Player Jason Collins First To Openly Announce He Is Gay

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Image: Joshua S. Kelly

Jason Collins is seen here playing for the Hawks in the 2012 playoffs. Image: Joshua S. Kelly

Jason Collins is a basketball player who played for the Celtics and the Wizards this year. He’s 34 years old, and he is seven feet tall and weighs 255 pounds. He is charismatic, intelligent and well educated. On the court, he is a tough, physical player.

All of those facts describe Collins.

But there is one fact about him that he revealed in Sports Illustrated magazine this week, that relatively few people knew.

Collins is gay.

He is the first male professional athlete, who is still playing a major North American sport, to openly announce that that he is gay.

Many people don’t care about a person’s sexual orientation (in other words, whether they’re gay or straight). They may even wonder why people are making such a big deal of Collins’s announcement.

However, some people are “homophobic,” or “anti-gay” and might make trouble for gay people, or even try to hurt them. That is why other gay male athletes prefer to stay “in the closet,” which means they don’t tell anyone they are gay.

In the Sports Illustrated article, Collins says being in the closet is a very difficult way to live.

In order to keep their secret, gay people have to hide the truth. Collins writes that, “The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage… Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn’t say a thing. I didn’t want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.”

He stayed in the closet and let people assume he was straight.

Now, however, Collins said he wants to show people that “gay players are no different from straight ones.” He said he is willing to talk to any players who are uneasy about Collins’s coming out. He said he will try to help them understand that being gay is not a choice.

Collins said he hopes that most people will understand and support him, but if he meets up with an intolerant player on another team he’ll play hard against him, “And then move on.”

“A lot of ill feelings can be cured by winning,” he writes.

Since Collins made his announcement (the Sports Illustrated article will be published May 6 but it is already available online), lots of people have given him their support, including U.S. President Barack Obama, basketball players like Steve Nash and Magic Johnson, celebrities like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and many others.

Collins said he is happier now that he has come out.

“Being genuine and honest makes me happy.”

Curriculum Connections
By Paul McGoey

Writing/ Discussion Prompts
How does getting to know people help us treat them respectfully?  Name one thing about yourself that you would want a new acquaintance to know?

OR

Think of a time when you were different from those around you in some way.  What was or could have been done to make you feel more included?

Reading Prompt: Understanding Form and Style

The phrase “in the closet” is an example of an idiom.  An idiom is a phrase or expression that isn’t literal – it isn’t actually what the author means is happening, it is something else that our culture thinks of in certain situations or to get certain ideas across.  Jason Collins isn’t actually in a closet, but being in a closet can make you feel trapped and uncomfortable – a lot of the same feelings someone who is gay but hasn’t told anyone may feel.  Sometimes, idioms are easier to understand because the feeling you get from the idiom is very close to the feeling you get from what is actually happening.  Other times, they don’t seem to make much sense at all: you just have to know what they mean.

Read the list of idioms linked to this activity.  Make a chart in your notebook with three columns.  In the first two columns, write down what the idiom is and what you think it means. Compare your chart to those of your classmates, discussing how you came up with the answers.  Where did you hear these idioms before?  Were there any that you hadn’t heard before?  Did you have any answers that were different from your classmates’ answers?  Are there some where you can figure out the meaning even if you haven’t heard them before?  Have a class discussion or go online (under your teacher’s supervision) and search for the idioms to find out what they actually mean.  If they mean same as what you already wrote, put a check mark in the third column.  If not, write what they actually mean in the third column.

Example:

Idiom

What I Think It Means

What It Actually Means

“You’re bugging me” “You’re bothering me” (check mark)
“It’s raining cats and dogs” “The rain is coming and going” “It’s raining very hard”
“Rise and shine!” “Get out of bed and be happy” (check mark)

Primary
Identify some simple elements of style, including voice, word choice , and different types of sentences, and explain how they help readers understand text (OME, Reading, 2.4)

Junior
Identify various elements of style – including word choice and the use of similes, personification, comparative adjectives, and sentences of different types, lengths and structures – and explain how help communicate meaning  (OME, Reading, 2.4)

Intermediate
Identify a range of elements of style – including symbolism, irony, analogy, metaphor and other rhetorical devices – and explain how they help communicate meaning and enhance the effectiveness of texts (OME, Reading, 2.4)

Teacher’s Note: this lesson can be modified to only include the first two columns of the chart and simpler idioms for younger grades.  Here is a good website to review when considering which idioms to include.

Grammar Feature: Adjective Order
Identify three different cases in the article where there is a noun (a person, place, thing or idea) directly after two or more adjectives (something that describes a noun).  For example, in the first paragraph, Collins is described as a “tough, physical athlete.”  Write these examples down in your notebook.  Afterwards, rewrite them, inserting one more adjective (that you come up with or that your teacher has written on the board) somewhere into each phrase.  For example, “big, shiny apples” can become “three big, shiny apples” or “big, three shiny apples.”

What made you decide on the order you chose?  Are there rules that you know of for the order different kinds of adjectives are supposed to be in?

Teacher’s note: to support this grammar feature exercise, you can formally review adjective order rules with your class.