The Societal Double-Standard

April 29, 2013 was a monumental day in the world of sports, but this particular occasion had nothing to do with any broken records, championship victories or amazing athletic feats. That was the day backup Washington Wizards’ center Jason Collins became the first active openly gay male athlete in North American team sports. But that is not all. Free agent quarterback Tim Tebow was released from the New York Jets on the same day, ending the organization’s year-long public relations debacle that began the day the team signed Tebow last offseason.

Outspoken but ostracized
The Jets never gave Tebow a chance to help the team win, even after realizing the team had no chance of reaching the playoffs – despite witnessing Tebow lead a 1-4 Denver Broncos team to a division championship and a playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. In any case, Tebow’s status as a polarizing figure is tied to his expressive displays of faith. Perhaps one can assume that Tebow’s immense popularity, while attributed to a combination of his spectacular college play, miraculous NFL comebacks and his vocal expression of faith, is mostly a product of how he exhibits his Christianity.

“Tebowing,” Tebow’s act of getting down on one knee to pray during football games, became a national sensation. He publicly admitted his virginity during a post-game press conference at the University of Florida. Tebow has been a guest speaker for churches around the nation and has cited scriptures on his eye black. He and his mother spoke out against abortion in a Super Bowl ad.

Acts like these have resulted in secular society treating Tebow like a religious freak. When the Jets signed him, the entire organization immediately seemed to become a freak show in the eyes of the media, who already figured that the move was a PR stunt at its core. The team closely resembled a circus act gone wrong throughout the season as the Jets mishandled and mistreated Tebow more and more with each passing week.

Irrelevant but idolized
Now consider Jason Collins, a 34-year old center who has played for 6 different teams in his 12 year NBA career. Compared to other NBA players, Collins was not very good even in his prime. His best season was as a New Jersey Net in 2004-2005, yet that season he averaged fewer than 7 points and 7 rebounds per game despite playing for an average of roughly 32 minutes per game. He also led the league in fouls that season. Yet, despite

Collins’ status as a relatively-unknown and mediocre basketball player, an overwhelming fanfare of support and recognition was there to commend Collins as a courageous pioneer for gay rights when he “came out” this April.
Collins has, perhaps unintentionally, become a symbol for homosexuality. The nation has accepted him with open arms, praising his courage and boldness. Collins even received a congratulatory phone call from the President Obama himself.

A double standard
A 2012 Gallup poll found that 3.4 percent of Americans identify themselves as homosexual. A separate Gallup poll conducted the same year found that 70 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. The irony here is that Collins identifies with the minority and receives praise from as high up as the White House, while Tebow identifies with the majority and receives abundant criticism from not only the media, but his own teammates as well.

Society’s perspective on these events also confirms what observant people have already witnessed happening in our nation recently. Homosexuality has become more acceptable in our community than evangelism. In fiction, openly Christian characters (who are becoming harder to find nowadays) are more often being demonized and portrayed as villains who use Christianity to gain control over others and mask their evil deeds. In contrast, gay characters have become more prominent in fiction, and are usually very likeable comic relief characters. Evangelicals are largely seen as uneducated, religious zealots who are out of touch with society and believe the earth is flat, while homosexuals are generally viewed as regular people who just want to love and marry who they desire. This is the trend society is going in, and everyone should expect these stereotypes to become more skewed as Americans become more comfortable with homosexuality and less comfortable with anything they may find the slightest bit offensive — like evangelical Christianity.

What’s next?
It is highly doubtful the Jets released Tebow because of anything remotely related to his faith. The most plausible reason was that the Jets simply had too many quarterbacks and needed to make room on their roster and reduce cap space. If the Jets did not use Tebow last year when they badly needed anyone who could throw a proper spiral, then it was obvious that he never had a future with them anyway. It was evident that the best scenario was for both parties to go their separate ways.

As for Collins, who becomes a free-agent in July, it is possible that he has effectively killed his NBA career by coming out. Most teams (except for Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks) would not risk signing an openly gay player for team chemistry concerns. If he stays a free agent throughout the summer, then the media will likely raise the question on whether Collins’ “coming out” is the reason he has not been signed. Once that question is posed, then the media will debate the ethics of that situation and possibly start trending the topic of “gay discrimination”. If this prediction of sorts comes to pass, then we are all guaranteed to witness more of the societal double-standard.

Email Jonathan at ebankj9770@gmail.com.

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