Ringside Seat: "I'm Black and I'm Gay"

In recent weeks, rumors have been swirling around the sports world that a currently active male athlete from one of the four major sports—baseball, football, basketball, and hockey—was about to come out as gay. Today, we found out who it is: NBA center Jason Collins, in an upcoming cover story for Sports Illustrated, reveals his sexuality to the world. Collins, a journeyman who has played for six teams, is at the tail end of his career—he's 34—and is what is referred to as a "defensive specialist," meaning he doesn't score very much. Nevertheless, this is a significant moment. There have been retired players from all four of those sports who have come out in the past, but Collins is the first to do so while still playing.

It was without doubt a courageous thing to do. But as Collins is lauded, we should acknowledge that gay athletes from earlier times whose sexuality became public—voluntarily or otherwise—faced much more difficult roads than Collins likely will. For example, in 1981, both Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova were outed, King in a palimony suit and Navratilova by a reporter (Navratilova had been eager to come out earlier, but faced pressure from the Women's Tennis Association to stay in the closet; she tells the story here). Though King was semi-retired, she was still a major figure in the sport. Both lost endorsement contracts once their sexuality was known. In contrast, Brittney Griner, the first pick in this year's WNBA draft and perhaps the most dominant women's player in college basketball history, casually revealed her sexuality in an interview two weeks ago; it didn't stop her from getting an endorsement contract with Nike.

As the first out active male player in one of the big four sports, Collins will face extra scrutiny, provided he finds a team to pick him up for next season; he's a free agent at the moment. But times have changed enough that he obviously didn't think opening up would destroy his career—who knows, all the attention might even help him land a new team. And so far, the reaction from the league and his fellow players, publicly at least, has been nothing but positive.

So They Say

"I told him I’ll come to South Carolina and campaign for him or against him, whichever will help the most—I know which it’ll be ... I’m going down there to to the JJ next weekend, Lindsey, and I assure you I will rip your skin off for you, and I expect a thank-you note."

Vice-President Joe Biden, kindly offering to help Lindsey Graham—who will likely face a tough primary in 2014

Daily Meme: A Case of the Economic Mondays

  • Another week, another spate of doom-and-gloom economic stats, and the requisite analysis to drill the point home.
  • As Bloomberg Businessweek puts it, "It’s as if the economy is trapped on some sort of cosmic hamster wheel."
  • A new study from the Urban Institute shows that the economic downturn has widened an already yawning gap between the wealth of whites and nonwhites. As one of the study's authors notes, “The racial wealth gap is deeply rooted in our society. It’s here, it’s not going away, and we need to care about it.”
  • The fact that close to one in three black people are living in poverty isn't going to close the gap.
  • In general, unemployment is likely worse than we think given an ever-falling participation rate.
  • And the number of young people out of work globally nearly approaches our country's entire population.
  • And to improve the lives of the world's poorest, they'll need to make nearly ten times their current incomes.
  • Economic confidence in Europe is flailing, even falling below modest expectations. 
  • And in response to the lackluster numbers, yet more countries fall prey to austerity's false charms
  • To top that all off, April's jobs numbers come out on Friday. Last month's were epically disappointing. Let's hope this isn't a repeat performance

What We're Writing

  • Last week, Rhode Island became the final New England state to allow same-sex couples to wed. The Northeast has been at the vanguard of the struggle for marriage equality, writes E.J. Graff, clearing the path for the "eleventh, twenty-fourth, thirtieth" states to approve, or one day approve, gay marriage.
  • The Tea Party has fundamentally reshaped the Republican Party, but little is known about these pugnacious patriots. Abby Rapoport describes three key findings from the first political-science survey of the group proud to say they've been Taxed Enough Already--most notably their dislike of compromise, even with the GOP.

What We're Reading

  • Jeffrey Rosen looks at how free speech has changed in the age of the Internet.
  • NPR interviews Sarah Allen, a computer programmer who often finds herself the only woman in the room.
  • Elizabeth Drew issues some #realtalk on the efficacy of White House arm-twisting.
  • Molly Ball asks, have we entered the golden age of female political candidates?
  • The New York Times examines New York City's young archivists, who collect, among other things, primary sources on George Washington's preference for roomy pantaloons.
  • Keystone XL protesters are being vastly, vastly outspent.

Poll of the Day

According to a recent Gallup poll, young Americans are more hopeful about their economic future than those who are older. The study found that although 48 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and those 65 and older rated their current financial conditions as "Excellent/Good," 73 percent of the younger age group felt that things were "getting better." Older American's were a bit less rosy—only 23 percent reported feeling optimistic about their financial future.