When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
Left to right: Nets teammates Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Jason Collins in 2006
In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, the NBA's Jason Collins became the first active player in any of the big four sports (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey) to announce he was gay. His opening paragraph: "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
Toward the end of his must-read story, Collins, a 7-foot, 255-pounder who has played for six teams in his 12-year pro career, ponders the fallout from his announcement:
I've been asked how other players will respond to my announcement. The simple answer is, I have no idea. I'm a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I've taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn't an issue before, and it won't be one now. My conduct won't change. I still abide by the adage, "What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room." I'm still a model of discretion.
Here's what President Obama had to say about Collins when asked at his Tuesday press conference:
And here's a look at what some people—some NBA players, some not—tweeted on Monday:
Fernanda Lopez and Jonathan Halvorson started going out after sharing a journalism class as freshmen at San Jose State University. Things were going great—so great, in fact, that Lopez decided to let Halvorson in on her big secret: She's an undocumented immigrant.
"I never actually said the words, 'I'm undocumented,'" Lopez said. "I told him I couldn't get a driver's license, I couldn't really get financial aid, I can't get a job, those kinds of things—and eventually, it was out."
Lopez's immigration status didn't faze Halvorson, a US citizen; two years later, the couple is still going strong. On Saturday, Lopez shared her "coming out" story in a talk titled "Undocumented Love" at the University of California-Berkeley's sixth-annual Aspire to Rise conference, where some 400 undocumented students, family members, and advocates—some from as far away as Humboldt County, four hours north—gathered to learn about paying for college, negotiating the Obama administration's deferred-action program, and, yes, dating while undocumented.
The Kansas secretary of state and intellectual author of harsh laws in states like Arizona and Alabama was back at it again earlier today, this time at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings on the Gang of Eight's immigration bill. In response to questions from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kobach said that "self-deportation is not some radical idea. It is simply the idea that people may comply with the law by their own choice."
The poised Kobach has seemed undeterred by his party's shift away from the attrition-through-enforcement framework, telling the Kansas City Star in February, "It's not my voice—it's the voice of the American people." (Just a couple of days earlier, for example, Newt Gingrich had appeared on CNN's The Situation Room and said of self-deportation, "That is the most anti-human phrase you can imagine…I think it was very unfortunate and frankly helped cost us the election.")
But Durbin, a longtime immigrant advocate and one of the original cosponsors of the DREAM Act, was all too happy to remind Kobach of the GOP's lingering Latino (and Asian American) problem. "The voters had the last word on self-deportation on November 6th," he said. "So we're beyond that now. You can stick with that theory as long as you'd like."
If his testimony is any indication, Kobach won't be changing his tune anytime soon.
Naming its long-awaited comprehensive immigration bill the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 wasn't just an alphabetical flourish by the bipartisan Senate Gang of Eight: Securing the border always was going to be its No. 1 stated goal.
So it's no surprise that the bill calls for the Department of Homeland Security to present Congress with plans for security and fencing strategies for the southern border before any of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants can become "Registered Provisional Immigrants," allowing them to legally live and work in the United States. And before RPIs can apply for green cards, a border enforcement plan must be "substantially operational," "maintaining effective control in all high-risk border sectors" in the Southwest.
Too bad, though, that there's still no way to know how the bill's benchmark border security stats will be determined.
The NBA career of Hall of Famer Phil Jackson spanned six decades: He played 12 years and snagged two league titles for the New York Knicks before winning 11 more championships as the coach of stars like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal. But during all of his time in the league, he said in a Huffington Post Liveinterview earlier this week, he's "never run into" gay professional basketball players.
Maybe Jackson's Zen-ness got in the way of the 67-year-old's memory and common sense, so let's help him out:
In 2011, fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said, "Every player has played with gay guys. Any professional athlete who gets on TV or radio and says he never played with a gay guy is a stone-freakin' idiot." So there's that.
John Amaechi, who came out in 2007 after he'd retired (and who's mentioned by Kurt Rambis in the above clip), played five seasons in the league in the 1990s and early aughts. He played in 12 games against Jackson's teams during his career.
More generally, the time when athletes and coaches can deny that there are gay players in pro locker rooms seems to be coming to end. Earlier today, Brendon Ayanbadejo, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker whose gay-marriage advocacy was criticized by a Maryland state legislator (who in turn was famously blasted by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe on Deadspin), told the Baltimore Sun today that "up to four" NFL players were considering coming out simultaneously sometime in the not-too-distant future:
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.
"Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."
The two most-recent big-name athletes to come out of the closet were both soccer players: Robbie Rogers, who played for the US national soccer team, made his announcement in February, while women's star Megan Rapinoe came out before last year's Olympics. And while no NFL, NBA, or Major League Baseball player has ever come out of the closet while still playing, that looks like it will change sooner than later. So if the Zen Master ends up taking a job in an NBA front office, maybe he'll finally run into an openly gay NBA player.