MSNBC commentator and CNBC contributor Keith Boykin stopped by The MoJo Show on Tuesday to discuss Jason Collins’ decision to come out.
“This is one of those stories that I think is going to last a long time,” Boykin said.
“I think people will be talking about it because it’s something that hasn’t happened before. It hasn’t been talked about before. The fact that Jason Collins actually came out is a ground-breaking moment for professional sports.”
Collins’ announcement was ground-breaking for several reasons, as he became the first openly gay male athlete in any of the four major U.S. sports.
But it goes deeper than that. While Collins is a professional athlete, he’s first and foremost a person.
“Athletes are human beings,” Boykin said. “These are topics that are part of a larger conversations in society.”
Like Collins, Boykin is black and openly gay, and he explained that homosexuality remains a taboo subject in the black community, which he described as hyper-masculine.
“In the black community – and in the sports world in general – athletics has been sort of a means to express your masculinity, and this goes back generations,” Boykin said, citing examples such as Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. “They’re demonstrating what it means to be a man – and that image is almost always straight.”
Regardless of race, however, sports – particularly male sports – remains a stereotypically macho environment. While female athletes are stereotyped as lesbians, Boykin said, male athletes are stereotyped as just the opposite.
Collins’ announcement should help challenge that stereotype.
“There are male gay athletes,” Boykin said. “We just don’t know who they are yet. At some point they will come out, but this is a taboo conversation.”
Is it ever
While Collins has gotten widespread support all the way from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, not everyone has been quite as accepting. ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard, for instance, drew criticism this week for calling homosexuality, in essence, a sin.
“Everybody’s got something to say about this, and it’s a conversation that needs to be had,” said Boykin, who offered his theory on why some people are so outspoken on this issue.
“I think repressed homosexuals are sometimes the worst homophobes,” he said. “A lot of times the people who have the most to say are people who have their own issues and think people won’t suspect them if they speak out loudly enough. But I think if you are comfortable with yourself and your own identity, then why do you care?”
To be clear, Boykin in no way insinuated that Broussard is gay.
Despite some of the backlash Collins has received, Boykin is encouraged that Collins not only made the announcement, but that he did it on his own terms. Professional athletes too often shy away from important issues, Boykin said, citing Dwight Howard’s silence in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder.
“That is a reflection of just how so many athletes in our society have been conditioned to the point where they can’t even express what they think,” Boykin said. “I assume (Howard) must have some opinion about (Martin’s murder), (but pro athletes) can’t even express what they think out of fear that it’s going to have some negative impact on their brand or their marketing or their ability to make money. And I think athletes have to have the right to speak out about what they care about.”
Collins did just that.
“It’s a conversation that needed to begin,” Boykin said. “I don’t think he’ll be the last one.”