May 8, 2013

Last week, NBA’s Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards made headlines by becoming the first professional male athlete in a major sport to publicly announce that he is gay.

 “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Wow. That’s brave… that’s candor. Collins’ announcement created big waves. What’s big here is not that Collins plays for the NBA. And, it’s not even that he’s gay. What is big is that he was publicly open and honest about a part of himself that could be misunderstood or could make him vulnerable. That’s such a true example of candor I probably could have written the headline and let you fill in the rest.

His story does remind us, though, that candor is rarely easy. It sometimes requires us to be brave, especially if we’re trekking into uncharted territory. Often, we take a deep breath, hope for the best but, unfortunately, expect the worst. In Collins’ case, his candor was praised by many, from his NBA peers to the president.

“Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.” ~ NBA Commissioner David Stern

Not everyone who chooses candor gets the same reception. How much more truthful would we be if we had confidence that we would be supported and well-received? How much good could we do if candor were     widely-accepted? A lot, according to Collins:

 “Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”

Collins’ candor comes with deep meanings for our youth, future athletes and society in general. He has just taken a very public stand, connecting his candid actions with his happiness.

“Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? …Allowing yourself to, you know, really be happy and be comfortable in your own skin.”

His announcement reminds us that candor comes with risks, sometimes small, sometimes huge:  Collins becomes a free agent on July 1. The NBA’s interest in him will be a test of how his candor may affect his career.

“I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness, whatever happiness that is, in life. I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I’ve ever been in my life.”

Ah, candor. So powerful in so many ways.