If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year career as a professional basketball player in the NBA, but today he became the first openly gay male professional athlete in a major American professional team sport.
For the professional sports community, this announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. While society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been a growing stigma surrounding homosexuality in professional sports. Collins broke that barrier this week, and he will go down in history as a man and player who forever changed the face of professional sports.
This amazing story of courage and strength should push the NBA to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand with the LGBT community and its supporters. It’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the league to lead the conversation surrounding this controversial topic. Athletes should feel comfortable coming out during their careers and not being discriminated against for their sexuality. An NBA campaign that focuses on LGBT issues would unite players and bring together fans to create a new culture around homosexuality in the NBA. Other professional sports leagues might even be inspired to create their own campaigns and come together as people to address this issue.
Organizations try to identify worthy causes to get behind. The NBA should use Jason’s story as a way to align their brand with progressive values that are more prevalent in sports and society today.
It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT rights and equality. Strong support of Collins and the overarching issue will show the world that the NBA values authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, it’s something truly special to witness for Jason. After years in the dark, he finally gets to live an honest life and hopefully inspire other athletes to come out and embrace their sexuality.