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Jason Collins' announcement conjures reflection of Jackie Robinson

05/02/2013 2:07 PM ET
By Seth Everett

Jason Collins has received immense support since coming out.(AP)
I would never have imagined my first post on YESNetwork.com wouldn't be about Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. I could have waxed poetic on the travails of Dave Winfield & Don Mattingly. No, my first post is about NBA journeyman Jason Collins.

Collins recently became the first active professional sports male to reveal that he is gay and has been applauded for making such a bold statement. Athletes both past and present have shown their support through social media and in interviews.

Throughout history, the social pioneer in sports has been baseball. Since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, MLB has always been part of the social consciousness in our society. As a matter of fact, during my years working for MLB, we did a study on the declining number of African-American ballplayers, and how the commissioner's office was creating Urban Academies just to stay on the forefront of a social issue.

When people think of patriotism, baseball is again at the forefront. The days after 9/11 are sprinkled with images of ballplayers both aiding in the healing, and then taking the field to send the world a message that America was going to pull through this.

I always thought the first gay athlete would have been a baseball player. He would have been a veteran, and while not necessarily an All-Star, he would be rather well-known. I have known closeted gay athletes in multiple sports, and I encourage them to come forward, so that I can support them, both on the air and off.

It's important for baseball to show solidarity in their support. We are 10 years removed from Todd Jones telling The Denver Post that he would not want to have a gay teammate. Jones was criticized then, and while other players may share his views, it's important that we don't confuse freedom of speech with a social responsibility that comes with being in baseball.

Baseball doesn't need a grand gesture on the heels of the Collins' reveal. It does, however, need to steer clear of controversy. No immature reactions. Those who oppose? Let's not blame Collins and punish him because you don't support him.

Baseball is not the pioneer when it comes to publicly gay athletes, but it has a good pedigree when it comes to social consciousness.

Follow Seth Everett on Twitter: @Seth_Everett

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