MANHATTAN, NY – For the LGBT community, Jason Collin’s Sports Illustrated Cover is the moment they have all been waiting for, especially people like Sean Smith.
“Youth sports have a huge opportunity to make this a teaching moment,” Smith said.
Smith is a gay athlete who spent years hiding his true self from his Rutgers swim team.
“I had a really difficult time figuring out how to be a gay man and an athlete. I don’t want any current student-athletes to have that problem. There’s no reason to have to choose,” he said.
Smith founded G(eneration) O(ut) Athletes, or GOAthletes.org, the first national network focused on making sports a safer place for young gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
“It has been a very ‘Waiting for Superman’ type of scenario. Now, that there is someone out, a gay male athlete in one of the four sports. He’s going to provide a huge picture of what you can do in athletics and still be gay,” Smith said.
In his first television interview on Good Morning America, Collins himself sent a direct message to kid athletes when he said, “It doesn’t matter that you’re gay. They key thing is that it is about basketball. It is about working hard… it is all about dedication and that’s what you should focus on.”
On and off the court, some kids are already learning, like Nicholas Reyes, 18, of Harlem. “It will probably be a good thing because you won’t have to be hiding. You could just be open,” Reyes said.
Teenager Ibrahim Diallo agrees. He says basketball is his favorite sport and he has big dreams. “I want to play in high school, college and I hope I’ll be in the NBA.”
Even this younger teen seems to understand the true takeaway from Collins coming out of the closet.
“The only thing that matters is the way he plays.”