Collins may inspire other athletes

PITTSBURGH – OK, Jason Collins is out. Who’s next?

Surely Collins, a 34-year-old center with the Washington Wizards, isn’t the only gay player currently active in one of the major team sports in the United States. He went public this week in a story that’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

There have been admissions after the fact in baseball (Glenn Burke) and football (Dave Kopay), so the idea of a gay player isn’t new. Burke played Major League Baseball from 1976-79, and Kopay was an NFL running back from 1964-72.

Penn State’s John Amaechi, who played professionally in the NBA and Europe from 1995-2003, revealed he was gay after his career ended.

Former Steelers receiver Hines Ward was quoted Tuesday as saying the NFL wasn’t ready for an openly gay player, whatever that means.

If you’ve seen the tape of deposed Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, you know that a gay slur is a common putdown in sports. Go to youtube, and there’s an uncensored clip of Pittsburgh Penguins players Kevin Stevens and Bryan Trottier berating the injured Brian Bellows from the bench, using the same theme.

Will Collins’ candor lead to other players deciding to open up about their lives? Or will others choose to avoid that potential burden? Or maybe they’ll simply figure their orientation is nobody’s business.

The guess here is that someone else – emboldened by Collins’ courage and the support he’s received – will make a similar disclosure. Maybe it’s in basketball, maybe it’s one of the other sports.

Most Sports Illustrated cover stories are forgotten by the time the next issue is delivered. That won’t be the case here.

See you later

Jonathan Sanchez has probably thrown his last pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is good.

Sanchez was awful. But remember that his spot on the roster was pretty much by default. He was filling a spot because Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Karstens are recovering from injuries, because Gerrit Cole isn’t ready, and because Kyle McPherson had a disappointing spring training.

You take your chances picking pitchers off the junk pile. Sometimes it works – Jason Grilli was a 34-year-old who was with his sixth organization when the Pirates rescued him from the minors.

Parting shots

By the way, two wise-guy jokes were quickly making the rounds. One was that Sanchez would be going to the All-Star game … to pitch in the home run derby.

The other was that the Pirates appealed Sanchez’s six-game suspension for throwing at a batter in St. Louis. They wanted 12 games.

Mehno can be reached at