Distraction. That's the dreaded D-word thrown about by pro sports teams fearing the reaction if one of their players came out publicly as gay. In a column for Derek Jeter's new site The Players Tribiune, Jason Collins, who retired from the NBA a year after coming out as gay, addresses the distraction myth better than anyone I've heard, because he's lived what people say they are fearing:
The ironic thing about the dreaded D word is that I had never felt more comfortable playing basketball than I was as an openly gay man. You know what a real distraction is? Maintaining a lie 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for most of your career, for most of your life. The energy involved in hiding the stress, shame, and fear of being gay is a full-time job. With all that removed, I was like a new person.
Bingo. Collins said what dozens of other out athletes have said -- once they stepped out of the shadows they played with a freedom previously unknown. I hope any pro sports executive will read Collins' words before he utters the D-word again. It's only a distraction if you allow it to become one.
Read the whole piece, it's well worth your time. Cyd and I were especially touched to see this mention: "I would keep track of what was going on via OUTsports.com every day, making sure to clear my browser history and cover my tracks."