In the wake of Jason Collins
Machismo and masculinity have long been associated with sports.
Stanford University graduate and current National Basketball Association player Jason Collins took a huge leap recently when he publicly announced he was gay.
Going forward, it is a challenge that Collins will have to be prepared for.
Santa Monica College head basketball coach Jerome Jenkins said he believes that it is time for the general public to become more open.
“That’s what America is all about really," said Jenkins. "I think it’s a matter of everybody being accepting of one another and how they want to live. I’m all for it, I have no problems or issues with it, people are people. I may have worked with a player, that I wouldn’t be shocked if I found out years later."
Although he views Collins' announcement as courageous, Jenkins said he believes that it might not be as easy for a college student athlete.
“I don’t think that everybody has the same platform that he has, him being a professional athlete, he has a strong platform behind him," said Jenkins. "So right now I think it might be a little tougher for some student athletes that don’t have the same platform or the same support system."
Coming out as an athlete is a very sensitive subject, which is why Jenkins said he plans on bringing up the conversation to his team.
“I teach my guys to respect each other as well as our opponents,” said Jenkins. "The only way you will be on my team is if you can play the game of basketball, so I teach my guys to respect each other regardless. I'm not just going to distance somebody because of how they choose to live off of the basketball court."
Jenkins said that it is important to start this dialogue with his team so they can continue to grow and learn tolerance for everyone.
“Society is going to keep expanding so we as people have to keep adapting instead of running from it," said Jenkins. "I think these are some of the tough issues that people did not really want to deal with but they just keep coming so we have to deal with these issues."
Michael Ratliff, one of Jenkins' players said he does not believe that anyone should worry about Collins' lifestyle off the court. To him, all that should matter is the game.
A gay teammate would not sever the bond that he and his teammates have forged at SMC.
“At the end of the day it’s still basketball, it’s still a sport," said Ratliff. "Everyone on my team is my brother. How they choose to live their life is how they choose to live their life. At the end of the day, they're still my friends and I still care about all my teammates, it wouldn't change anything."
For SMC volleyball player Zane McFarlane, it is difficult to be an openly gay athlete.
Originally from a small town in Northern California, McFarlane grew up in a very conservative environment. Since moving to Los Angeles, he said he has found people to be more accepting.
But it was not always that way.
“It was definitely scary to come out just because I knew the mindset of people in small towns,” said McFarlane.
Though McFarlane is open and accepted by his teammates, he completely understands why it is very difficult, especially for his boyfriend who is on a Division I baseball team.
Both have experienced the same pressure from coaches to be very masculine.
“They tear you down on purpose,” said McFarlane. "In baseball, it's easy to fail. My boyfriend is not out."
While challenges still remain, McFarlane hopes that Collins, given his high profile, may make it easier for athletes moving forward. To him, Collins can be someone to look up to.
“It will make it more acceptable, especially since he is an NBA player,” said McFarlane. "It shows that it is okay to come out of you're a gay athlete."
Jenkins echoes McFarlane's sentiments.
"We're here to play basketball, we're here to win, we're here to go to school, we're here to get out of here," said Jenkins. "That's the bottom line for me."