Brooklyn Nets Jason Collins Jersey
The first LGBT artifact that I would like to talk about is a signed 2014 Brooklyn Nets Jason Collins Jersey. The material of this jersey is polyester and ink. The jersey appears to be in good condition and there are very few distinguishing marks or blemishes. It is signed by Jason Collins and his teammates; Alan Anderson, Andray Blatche, Kevin Garnett, Jorge Gutierrez, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce, Mason Plumlee, Marquis Teague, Mirza Teletovic, Marcus Thornton and Deron Williams. The jersey is currently located at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. What makes this jersey so significant is that it belonged to the first openly gay athete in the NBA, Jason Collins. Following the 2012-13 season, Collins came out as gay in a Sports Illustrated article from April of 2013. He then became a free agent and signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014. Coming out made Collins the first openly gay athlete to play in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues, (NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL). Jason Collins has set the stage for every LGBT athlete to come after him. This jersey represents Jason Collins paving the way for LGBT athletes and becoming more accepted in the professional sports community. In an article called “‘I am happy to start the conversation’: Examining sport media framing of Jason Collins’ coming out and playing in the NBA,” by Edward M Kian and Danny Shipka from Oklahoma State University, and Eric Anderson from the University of Winchester, UK, it provides “A textual analysis examined US media framing of National Basketball Association (NBA) player Jason Collins’ coming out as the first ‘active’ gay athlete in one of the four most popular US professional men’s team sport leagues.” The article states that “matters have been slower to evolve within one major American cultural / entertainment institution – sport, particularly the four most popular men’s professional team sports. That appeared to change in April 2013 when basketball player Jason Collins became the first openly gay active athlete in any of the four major USA-based professional male team sport leagues: Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and National Hockey League (NHL).” Even knowing that he would be judged, ridiculed and threatened, Jason Collins knew that he had to be the first one to take the step. He had to work up the courage to give LGBT athletes a more welcoming and accepting future in sports. The article also states, “Only seven previous professional athletes from these leagues had announced they were gay. None were well known to American sports fans and all came out publicly well after finishing their careers (Kian et al., 2011).” Professional athletes only came out after being retired because they knew there were so many negative things they would have to deal with. They feared their coach and team mates not being accepting, getting kicked off the team, being physically attacked, fans not being accepting or being protested. Even though things are not as bad today, these are still things that athletes fear. Jason Collins only came out in 2013, that was only eight years ago. It took a long time for a professional athlete to stand up and finally speak their truth. In another part of the article the authors also state, “Collins’ coming out and later suiting up for the Nets provided a long-awaited opportunity to analyze media reaction to a gay athlete in one of the ‘Big 4’ professional American team sports. How media framed the meanings, significance, and ramifications of Collins’ self-outing and his actually competing as an openly gay athlete in one of America’s popular men’s team sports are important to examine for future coverage of openly gay athletes and the overall place of homosexuality in sport.” As expected by Collins or literally any LGBT individual, the media jumps right on a big name coming out. Although it is important to cover and share an important moment like this in history, negative media coverage is incredibly harmful. False stories, rumors and disapproval online hurt a person’s image and are online forever. In another article called “The Art of Coming Out: Traditional and Social Media Frames Surrounding the NBA’s Jason Collins,” by Andrew C. Billings , Leigh M. Moscowitz, Coral Rae1, and Natalie Brown-Devlin, the authors talk about the aftermath of Collins’ coming out on social media. The authors bring up the point that, “Consumerist media representations have perpetuated only particular categories of gay men and lesbian women, relegating many other gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer identities to the margins.24 To be gay in the media has meant you are young, white, wealthy, oftentimes male, physically anchored to dominant notions of masculinity, severed from the larger LGBTQ community, and removed from queer politics.” The media tries to shape LGBT individuals into what they want them to look like and do not allow diversity. This is another big problem related to why social media can be harmful to the LGBT community. The last thing that I would like to discuss is a statement from “‘I am happy to start the conversation’: Examining sport media framing of Jason Collins’ coming out and playing in the NBA” saying, “competitive sport has served as a social institution principally organized around the political project of defining certain forms of masculinity as acceptable, while denigrating other forms of masculinity (Crossett, 1990).” People have a set idea in their minds about what a professional athlete is supposed to look like, act like and think like. When an athlete steps out of that box people have a lot to say about it, both positive and negative. Jason Collins was the first one to take that risk. All of these contingencies are what the jersey represents. It is an embodiment of the trials and tribulations of what Jason Collins had to go through when coming out.
Kian EM, Anderson E, Shipka D. ‘I am happy to start the conversation’: Examining sport media framing of Jason Collins’ coming out and playing in the NBA. Sexualities. 2015;18(5-6):618-640.
Billings AC, Moscowitz LM, Rae C, Brown-Devlin N. The Art of Coming Out: Traditional and Social Media Frames Surrounding the NBA’s Jason Collins. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. 2015;92(1):142-160.