Out and proud Olympian Blake Skjellerup attended Jason Collins’ first home game with the Brooklyn Nets. It’s hard for him to even describe it.
"With about 3:30 remaining, I heard a person beside me yell “Jason Collins.” I, perhaps as someone who has been on the offensive too much of his life, was ready to jump up and educate someone on the importance of acceptance and tolerance. But this gentleman was cheering, and chanting!, for Jason Collins’ entry into the game.
In the space of 30 seconds, I saw one of the greatest things about sport, and something I had always believed existed, but never witnessed. The gentleman beside me was not the only person calling out “Jason Collins.” As I think about it now, the goosebumps I felt last night re-appear.
An arena full of people, calling and chanting the name of a player who is undoubtedly one of the most well-known athletes in the world, who is in a professional sport, and is gay. As Jason took to the court, the crowd, myself included, took to our feet. The applause and cheering that followed was something I will never forget.
As a 16-year-old I longed for a role model and visible identity like Jason Collins. Now, as a 28-year-old, I was a part of something that showed the greatness of sport, and also, the greatness of humanity.
Jason Collins has broken a barrier, the biggest barrier that sport has faced in many years. Being gay does not stop, hinder or define who you are entirely, especially in sports.
I believe I witnessed a stadium cheer for a player who is great at what he does: play basketball. I witnessed a stadium full of people cheer for a player who deserved it, based off his career achievements, and based off his visibility and openness to who he is.
Being gay has not stopped Jason Collins. His being gay didn’t fracture the success of the Nets last night. Jason Collins brought a stadium full of people to their feet, and he showed that if you can play, you can play!”
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