- Created on 18 October 2013
(CNN) -- It was merely a dream, wasn't it?
That whole Jason Collins thing of six months ago -- never happened, right? The headline news of his becoming the first openly gay active male professional athlete in a team sport. The Sports Illustrated cover. The supportive tweets from everyone ranging from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to Jason Kidd and LeBron James. The interviews. The raves ("Game-changing!"). The altered landscape.
Remember when The Guardian newspaper called Collins' emergence significant for LGBT acceptance ... "as professional sports had long been seen as the final frontier"?
Remember when the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network presented Collins with its courage award? Remember when the veteran NBA center was being likened to Jackie Robinson?
Well, eh, forget it. Forget the whole thing.
As you read this, Collins is likely sitting somewhere inside his California home, twiddling his thumbs, watching reality TV, waiting, hoping, waiting, hoping, waiting, hoping for the groundbreaking opportunity that looks, increasingly, unlikely to occur. Put differently: For one to actually become the first openly gay active male professional athlete in a team sport, one must be an openly gay active male professional athlete playing a team sport.
And Collins ain't playing squat.
With the NBA opening in less than two weeks, it has become clear that the league's 30 teams have no interest in Collins, a 34-year-old journeyman. From a purely basketball standpoint, this is understandable: Once a valuable role player on a New Jersey Nets team that reached back to back NBA Championship series in the early 2000s, Collins is a shell of his former self.
Playing with Boston and Washington last season, he averaged but 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in 38 games. He is -- to be blunt -- a slow, nonathletic player with creaky joints and no offensive repertoire of which to speak. Were this any other similarly submediocre player in any other sport, his departure would register nary a blip on the radar. He would vanish, and life would move on.
Costas: Collins is 'the perfect guy' Collins: I'm the happiest I've ever been 'We planned our lives together'
Jason Collins, however, ceased being ordinary the moment he announced he was gay.
To thousands upon thousands of Americans, he became a beacon of hope and a sign that maybe sexuality would matter not the in machismo-stuffed world of professional sports. If LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul could embrace a gay man as a teammate, what excuse would the loudmouth, homophobic blockhead at the construction site or law firm have for his close-mindedness?
Finally, things were about to change.
Only they weren't because, well, nobody called. The NBA has been repeatedly defended in its inaction with predictable attacks on Collins' game -- too slow, too marginal, too worthless. Yet could somebody (anybody?) have at least invited him to training camp -- land of myriad oafs and fringe players itching to land a job?
Hell, the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason roster included Dan Gadzuric and Eric Boateng, two men with limited skill sets and without Collins' great teammate/dogged worker resume. Hell, the Atlanta Hawks briefly employed David Lighty, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with no redeeming NBA attributes. Hell, the New York Knicks, according to NBC Sports' D.J. Foster, "have basically worked out everyone who has ever touched a basketball this offseason." Everyone save Collins.
This isn't a hard one to figure out.
As the late Branch Rickey of baseball fame repeatedly pointed out, change within the sports landscape doesn't come easily.
Just as members of the Brooklyn Dodgers were loathe to share locker space with Robinson in the summer of 1947, many NBA players (whether they admit it publicly or not) were likely not thrilled by the idea of showering alongside a gay man even if they'd been showering alongside said gay man for more than a decade.
Adding Collins to a roster -- even a preseason roster -- would likely have meant awkwardness, confusion and weirdness.
There almost inevitably would have been conservative Christian teammates asking to change in a designated private space. Special press conferences would need to be arranged.
Gay rights groups would flock to the arena -- and they'd be loud. And what of the slurs that fly across courts during practice with staggering regularity, and without much thought? What would happen the first time a Clipper or Piston or Spur uttered the word "f****t," even if it were not directed at Collins?
Could all this trouble (and it would, inevitably, be trouble) be worth it for at best a seldom-used 12th man?
Opportunities like this don't happen often, and the NBA -- arguably the most progressive of the four major American team sports -- is failing miserably.
Where is Kidd, the Nets' new coach and former Collins' teammate, with a camp invite? Where is Mark Cuban, the forward-thinking Dallas Mavericks owner, with a pen and a contract? Where are the Golden State Warriors, the team whose arena is 18 miles from the spot where Harvey Milk was murdered? Where are the Lakers, a franchise desperately in need in grit and toughness? Where are the Miami Heat, whose bench could use a bruiser of Collins' ilk?
How in the world could no one think to add Collins to a roster, if only to give his courageous first step the conclusion it deserves?
How are we letting this one slip away?
- Created on 17 October 2013
The sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live has been on the air longer than many of the current cast members have been alive. However, in the 38 years SNL has been broadcast, there have only been four Black women to be a part of the cast.
In a recent interview with TV Guide, actor/comedian Kenan Thompson blamed the lack of Black female comedians on the show on Black female comedians rather than his boss Lorne Michaels.
In the interview, Thompson expressed his distaste for having to put on a dress and play female characters. He has impersonated a wide range of Black women in the entertainment business such as Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, and Maya Angelou. Now that he’s hanging up his dress for good, TV Guide asked who would play Black female celebrities and Thompson responded, “I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it.”
Thompson went on to say that there are never any quality Black female comedians that audition so that’s why there are no Black women part of the cast. “It’s just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
- Created on 16 October 2013
Character's like Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope on "Scandal", and Nicole Beharie's Lt. Abbie Mills on "Sleepy Hollow" are a breath of fresh air for many black women, according to a recent study.
It's not often that you see images of black women in the media that deviate from the stereotypical archetypes like the ones identified
- Created on 14 October 2013
Since the government was forced to shut down on October 1st, one of the most common refrains has been that some members of Congress are acting like children—or, more accurately, worse than most children. Even 5-year-olds understand that quitting the game and taking the ball home because the other team won't give you your way is wrong. Extremist Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to hold funding for the federal government hostage for the second week in a row, opposing a clean extension of government funding without conditions. Their actions as they refuse to do their constitutionally mandated duty are harming the economy and countless real children and families across the country.
Fortunately, some of the programs families with children depend on aren't affected by funding tied to the shutdown, including Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps). There are others, including many education programs, where funding has already been provided for the year. However, many other federal programs that help low income families meet everyday needs have been forced to stop operating due to the shutdown, including some of the same programs already hit hard by sequestration cuts earlier this year. Children have only one childhood. Every day that children are being denied early education and food causes lasting damage to their chances of living to their full potential.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is without its regular funding due to the shutdown, leaving at risk nearly nine million pregnant women, recent mothers, and their children under age five who rely on the program's supplemental vouchers for healthy food, expensive infant formula, and other necessities. Fifty-three percent of all infants born in the U.S. are fed through the WIC program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture originally estimated that state funds and contingency funds would be enough to cover only a week of nutritional supports during the shutdown. Fortunately the Department this week transferred unspent funding from last year to states to avoid shutdowns through the month of October—but not beyond. Some states have already stopped applications for new benefits because they are unsure of what will happen next month.
Head Start serves more than one million poor children, who are particularly in need of early education programs to succeed and thrive. Twenty-three Head Start programs servicing nearly 19,000 students across 10 states and Puerto Rico did not have access to federal funding on October 1st because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could not process Head Start grants due to the shutdown. Head Start grantees are funded on a yearly basis, and for some that grant year begins on October 1st. When these programs didn't receive their annual grants as scheduled, they were forced to close their doors and furlough their workers unless they had alternative sources of revenue. At the end of the first week of the government shutdown, seven Head Start programs in six states (Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi) were closed, leaving 7,195 of our nation's most vulnerable children without access to Head Start. These programs were able to reopen thanks to a private pledge of $10 million from John and Laura Arnold. Under sequestration Head Start already had to cut 57,000 children from the program.
Funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) shouldn't have been affected by the shutdown, but because the legislation reauthorizing it was delayed along with the spending bill, states are not receiving their October federal funds. Since TANF is funded through both federal and state funds, most states should have the flexibility to continue providing benefits, and the federal government has also let states use leftover funds from previous years. But at least one state—Arizona—stopped TANF payments starting October 3rd to 5,200 families out of the Arizona TANF caseload of 16,300 families.
As many Americans have already learned, even life-saving research for children with serious medical needs has been affected. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that for every week the shutdown continues, 30 children—10 of whom have cancer—will not be able to begin their clinical trials.
States use the $1.7 billion Social Services Block Grant for child abuse and neglect services, child care, and other family services, but due to the shutdown, states are not receiving their October funds. This means some states may have to close down programs if they don't have alternative funds they can use.
And children of families of furloughed employees may suffer if the furlough lasts too long. The federal government estimates that more than 800,000 workers are being furloughed, and some state and local government employees normally paid with federal funds are also being sent home. This comes on top of the furloughs that many federal employees have experienced over the past six months due to sequestration. If the shutdown lasts, furloughed employees may experience problems paying bills and providing for their families, especially if they are not provided retroactive pay once the shutdown ends.
To make all of this worse, a severe economic meltdown is predicted if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling in the next two weeks to pay the nation's bills and obligations. Meanwhile some members of Congress continue to show worse "compromising" skills than spoiled toddlers. Enough is enough. Call or email your own representative and tell them they must act now to fully fund the federal government and raise the debt ceiling without any conditions. Tell them to stop the shutdown and prevent an economic meltdown for the sake of our children.