Coming out: An NBA star's admission could be a game changer

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Despite the machismo of male athletes, sports culture and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive. Those who doubt it should read Jason Collins' essay in Sports Illustrated this week, in which the 12-year National Basketball Association veteran reveals that he is gay.

Mr. Collins, 34, a center with the Washington Wizards, did something no other active player has in the four major American sports -- football, basketball, baseball and hockey. He admitted that he was gay even though it could hurt him on the court with fans, opposing players and his own teammates.

Mr. Collins' revelation is long overdue in the NBA, where many less-mature players and fans equate homosexuality with weakness. Admitting who he was after living a lie for most of his life could not have been easy, but his willingness to be frank about who he is breaks an insidious yet invisible barrier in pro sports.

So far, Mr. Collins has found more acceptance than Jackie Robinson did when he integrated baseball in the 1940s, but the analogy is still appropriate. Like the hero who opened the doors of America's national pastime to blacks, Mr. Collins is blazing a trail for a class of people who were once assumed to be unworthy of inclusion.

By telling the truth about himself, Mr. Collins has made a great game even better. If society's changing attitudes cause institutions and lawmakers to grant people who are homosexual full equality under the law, that would be a game changer if ever there was one.

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