In Oakland, “we welcome all kinds here”
Should an openly gay player ever step foot in the A’s clubhouse, he’d have the full support of his teammates.
That was the sentiment shared by several Oakland players on Monday, the same day NBA veteran Jason Collins publicly declared he’s gay, becoming the first active athlete in the four major American sports to do so.
“A person’s a person to me,” manager Bob Melvin said. “If he’s a good person, a good baseball player, we’d welcome him here.
“We welcome all kinds here, and I think it’s good. We embrace that as an organization. We would absolutely have no issues with that at all.”
Collins’ announcement drew a vast array of encouraging comments from the sports world, many of which were heard in Oakland, particularly from team player representative Jerry Blevins, who spoke eloquently on the matter.
“I’m impressed. It takes such courage, especially in an environment of pro sports, to come out,” Blevins said. “I’m proud that I play sports in today’s era where somebody can be openly gay, and I’m excited for a future where kids that feel the same way that [Collins] does have someone to look up to and say, ‘I can be myself and I can also be a world class athlete.’
“I think once everyone gets over the initial shock and stops talking about it that people will start to feel open about it. Everyone talks about Jackie Robinson, but there were also a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth black guy that came to play the game. It’s not nearly the same thing, but it takes equal courage to be who you are and play when you’re not quite as accepted as you should be or as you deserve. There will be more to follow, and at some point it won’t be a story anymore.”
Added Coco Crisp: “For me, it’s not a big deal. There are people that are real religious and think a certain way, but as far as anyone that has something they want to share with the world and they feel like it’s going to help them and maybe others, then I’m happy for that person.”
It’s a conversation that will surely continue in the baseball realm until someone who is openly gay actually walks into a Major League clubhouse, where players engage in a rather unusual working environment, with players and coaches undressing and showering together on a daily basis for at least eight months out of the year. This stands as reason why some might have an issue with gays in a clubhouse — but it shouldn’t be, says Jed Lowrie, who attended Stanford University shortly after Collins did.
“We spend a longer period of time together and probably in a closer environment than other sports, but at the end of the day I think this is a place of business,” the A’s shortstop said, “and you have to have the separation between your professional life and your personal life. If someone can help the team win, that’s what it’s about.”
“I think if it happened in baseball, especially in our clubhouse, it would be about as easy as a transition as it could be,” Blevins said. “We already make fun of each other for every little thing. That’s kind of what brings us together.”