On April 29th, Jason Collins wrote a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated that began simply and succinctly.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
The statement was celebrated, not because the sexual orientation of an athlete is of great importance, but by virtue of Collins promoting a principle that many of us accept: Sports are to be indiscriminate. Skin color, biological makeup, personal preferences and interests don’t matter. All that does is whether or not you can play. And that’s something that absolutely everyone should have the right to find out.
In something so achievement-based as sports, it’s surprising that this ideal isn’t more widespread. As unfortunate as it is, we seldom go a week without learning of a professional athlete who said something hurtful, a spectator who did something ignorant, or a governing body acting in way that excludes rather than includes.
The most recent of these regretful incidents is occurring in Quebec, where the province’s soccer federation has decided to ban turban-wearing Sikh children from participating in sanctioned competitions. Brigitte Frot, the director-general of the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF), was asked last week what she would tell a five-year-old boy in a turban who shows up to register to play soccer with his friends. She replied:
They can play in their backyard. But not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer. They have no choice.