If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today, you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year stint 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 sporting community, this announcement couldn’t have come any sooner. While American society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been this social stigma surrounding homosexuality within professional sports. The barrier that once stood is diminished, and today Collins will go down in history not as a professional basketball player, but as a Jackie Robinson type who forever changed the face of professional sports.
With this story of courage and strength pulling at the heart strings of fans, players and supporters of equality, the NBA possesses a unique opportunity to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand. I’m not encouraging the NBA to exploit this man’s heroic story for financial gain, I just believe it’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the NBA to lead the conversation surrounding this highly controversial topic. Organizations are continually searching for a worthy cause to stand behind, and the NBA should use this inspirational story as a way to align its brand with progressive values that are becoming more prevalent in modern society.
It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT equality and the NBA is a brand that has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Strongly supporting Collins and the overarching cause will show the world that the world’s most prolific basketball brand is synonymous with authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, this story surrounding Collins and the NBA is something special. Collins finally gets to live the life he’s always wanted, and the NBA has a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine its brand for the better.