Jason Collins and the Social Media Response

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran NBA center for the Washington Wizards, among other teams, recently came out in a piece published in Sports Illustrated magazine. The significance of his announcement, making him the first openly gay active male athlete in US professional team sports, was not lost on anyone, and received a response that was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Despite the fact that female professional athletes have been “out” for 32 years, since professional tennis player Martina Navratilova came out in 1981, the men’s professional sports world is probably one of the more difficult arenas left to come out. Collins’ bravery was acknowledged by many, including President Obama who personally called him to tell him that “What you did today was brave…It affected so many other people in the country.” Lebron James, one of basketball’s best players, called Collins “noble,” saying “I think it’s very strong of [Collins]. I’ve got the utmost respect for Jason.”

Collins also received wide-ranging support from others, from former President Bill Clinton, to current teammates and other players including Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, to numerous former coaches. Particularly remarkable was the response from the social media community. In general, research showed that the social media response was over 80% positive, with a very small minority of actively negative voices. You can find a breakdown of the most-frequently mentioned keywords here:

Source: socialmediatoday.com

Source: socialmediatoday.com

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