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May 5, 2013

Armerding column: Good for Jason Collins, but he wasn't being courageous

It’s fine with me if NBA center Jason Collins wants to declare to the world his sexual preference.

And, as was pointed out nonstop for several days on television, radio, magazines and thousands of newspaper editorial pages, he is the first active, male player in one of the four major pro sports —baseball, football, basketball and hockey — to come out as gay. So yes, it is technically a historic moment.

It’s also fine with me if everybody wants to compliment him for “being who he is,” and all that.

But these endless declarations about how brave and courageous he is? Get serious. There is zero risk for him in doing this — none. Perhaps if he had done it 12 years ago, at the beginning of his career, instead of near the end of it, with gay marriage not even legal yet in Massachusetts, there might have been a measure of courage in it.

But at this point, it’s one of the best career moves he could have made. Coming out isn’t risky. It’s trendy, edgy. Straight is boring, gay is so very cool.

According to ad experts, he probably has bigger paydays coming from endorsement deals than he does from setting screens and blocking shots.

“It could be a very lucrative opportunity for him,” Mark Elderkin, CEO of the Gay Ad Network in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told the Boston Herald. “The gay market is a big market, so this is a tremendous opportunity for Jason. He’s an all-around good athlete with a clean record — all the attributes of a spokesman for a national brand. And with the publicity around this, the right sponsor can take advantage of that.”

Can somebody tell me what the downside is in that?

While it is historic, it is more of a historical footnote. It’s just not that big a deal any more. Even Cher says as much. Time magazine recently carried a cover story, with a photo of two men kissing and the headline, “Gay marriage already won.”

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