As expected, the media has crowned Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, the new Jackie Robinson, and the Human Rights Campaign has called Collins a “hero for our own times.” His actions were deemed worthy of a personal phone call from President Obama, who told Collins that he “couldn’t be prouder.”
Without disparaging Collins personally (I understand he had a great reputation among his teammates), here are some reasons why he is absolutely not the new Jackie Robinson.
When Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, there were no black equivalents of prominent and influential gays and lesbians like Ellen Degeneres and Elton John, Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow, Tim Cook (CEO, Apple) and David Geffen, Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, just to mention a few. The comparison is actually laughable.
The media was not swooning over black civil rights the way it is swooning over “gay rights,” nor were leading politicians lining up to voice their support for black equality the way they are currently lining up to support “gay equality.” And when Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his fourth inaugural address in 1945, there was no mention of blacks or of civil rights. In contrast, President Obama used his second inaugural address to push aggressively for the redefinition of marriage and other gay activist causes.
Collins is already the darling of the media, with more interview requests than he could possibly accept, and so there is no possible way to compare his so-called “courageous” act with that of Robinson.
Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers and the man behind Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball, said to him, “Jackie, we've got no army. There's virtually nobody on our side. No owner, no umpires, very few newspapermen. And I'm afraid that many fans may be hostile. We'll be in a tough position. We can win only if we can convince the world that I am doing this because you're a great ballplayer, and a fine gentleman.”
Collins may have been a fair basketball player and he may be a fine gentleman, but there is no comparison between the two climates in which Robinson entered the major leagues and Collins made his announcement, nor can their courage be rightly compared.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.