Something you should know about Jason Collins

No, neither of these two baseball players is Jason Collins.

You’re right: none of these baseball players is Jason Collins.

 

On National Coming Out Day, Kevin Arnovitz wrote about how Jason Collins’ continued free agency affects the quest for equality in professional sports.

Yes, Jason Collins is openly gay, and yes, it’s unlikely that he will find his way onto an NBA roster this season. Both of these truths are not new; I covered both in April. But there’s something else you should know about Collins: he wasn’t the first openly gay man in a major pro sport.

As reported by Allen Barra back in May, that honour (curse?) goes to Glenn Burke, a baseball player who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s all the way back in 1976-79.

Why don’t more people know about Burke? It’s actually quite simple: the news media of the day refused to cover the story:

Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn’t write that in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused.

You can read more about Glenn Burke in Part 2 of ESPN The Magazine’s segment on the history of the high five. You read that right: Glenn Burke is also the man responsible for inventing the high five.

Burke is one of professional sports’ largely forgotten interesting characters. So much so that Jamie Lee Curtis is producing a film based on his life.

- Devin

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