PADECKY: Jason Collins' coming out could open door for other athletes

  • FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2013 file photo, then-Boston Celtics center Jason Collins (98) guards Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe, right, in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich. Jason Collins has become the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay. Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday on Sports Illustrated's website. The 34-year-old Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)

What Jason Collins did Monday, will he encourage and empower others? Will he be the first in a long string of gay and lesbian athletes who will now announce their homosexuality, proud and public with it? Or will Collins be a meteor shooting across our sky, bright and entrancing, only to fade away, alone in his luminescence?

Will Jason Collins matter? That's the short of it. From what we are experiencing in the days following his announcement — reaction is coming from major sports and media outlets — he does. But in an information age in which the news cycle is measured in minutes, if not seconds, how long will Collins and his courage carry the day?

"I think initially people will sit on the sidelines with a wait-and-see attitude," said Evelyn Cheatham, a member of the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission. It's as if we are still wrapping our minds around his admission and all the possible scenarios resulting from it.

In some way or another, we all are like Julia (Stamps) Mallon, the All-American runner at Santa Rosa High School and Stanford. Stamps was asked to be a bridesmaid for Collins' wedding to Carolyn Moos in 2009, a wedding called off. Mallon, 34, was and remains close friends with Collins and Moos. They all were at Stanford together.

Mallon was Collins' guest to see him play in the NBA in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. After the game she would notice the wives and the girlfriends gathering, waiting for the players to emerge from the locker room. She never noticed a man waiting for Jason. She said progress will be measured when Collins' partner will be waiting as well.

"This story has so many angles to it," Mallon said.

It is those angles that will largely determine the long-term impact of Collins and his message of tolerance and understanding.

One of those angles surprisingly is technology, the electronic medium that too often rushes to judgment, spreading false information and shallow, knee-jerk reactions.

Within hours Collins was receiving praise and encouragement nationwide.

It wasn't just President Obama devoting time to speak publicly.

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