Gay athlete like me; Donal Og Cusack says Jason Collins is on the same journey
“By putting himself out there... he has allowed other people to grow,” says Cork star
Donal Og Cusack became the first major athlete in Ireland to state he was gay. He was the goalkeeper for the Cork hurling team and has won three All Ireland medals.
History is too big for any man or woman so it's best not to worry about trying to shoulder it, make it or shape it. Do what you do. Be strong and be who you are. History will take care of itself.
Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to come out this week. I am glad. It is a small step for mankind but a huge step for sports. He will know himself better now and in the weeks to come he will come to know those around him better too.
The rest of his career can be the best years of his career. By putting himself out there and allowing himself to be judged he has allowed those around him to stand up for what they believe in. He has allowed other people to grow.
Most importantly he has gathered his strength and passed it onto the next generation of gay sportspeople in America. I love to imagine one kid walking onto a court or playground in New York, Chicago or LA feeling better about himself because of Jason Collins. That’s the gift that Jason Collins has passed on.
He’ll do what he does. He’ll be who he is. History is for other people to make or write.
I read about when Jackie Robertson stepped out for the Brooklyn Dodgers all those years ago he had no locker; they gave him a hook on the wall. He waited behind till his teammates had used the showers and the hot water before he went to get himself cleaned up after a match. The abuse came at him not just from the stands but from opposition dugouts.
Players at rival clubs voted to refuse to play the Dodgers and when they did play they played under threat of losing their jobs. They hurled abuse at Robinson and their pitchers hurled the ball at him. Crowd mikes at game had to be removed as radio listeners were picking up too much racial abuse while eating mom’s apple pie back home.
Then there were the death threats the hate mail and Jackie Robinson’s complete isolation within his own team.
Thankfully, Jackie Robinson didn’t break though. Soon the media stopped referring to his race at all. Every time he got knocked down he stood up again. Famously one day as Jackie was being drenched in hatred from the bleachers his teammate Pee Wee Reese walked over and wrapped an arm around him. You took Jackie Robinson on well then you were no friend of Pee Wee Reese.
I don’t know anything much about Pee Wee Reese but I know that Jackie Robinson’s story brought something out in him that he perhaps never knew was there.
That story reminds me of a period in my own career. A Sunday paper tried suddenly to make an issue of my sexuality. They were sniffing around with threats and innuendos. Discussing my private life with the rest of the Cork senior hurling team had never been an issue with me. I genuinely never thought it mattered. Now suddenly it mattered because somebody somewhere was making it matter.
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