In a pro sports climate in which athletes are becoming more and more outspoken about political issues they care about, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Jarron Collins spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of his Mexican wife, his children, and his brother, Jason.
Jarron introduced Jason, who spoke about his path to becoming the first publicly gay athlete in the four major male professional sports leagues in the U.S. in 2013 and the principles of respecting the humanity of people regardless of race, sexuality or gender.
But the most powerful segment of Jarron's speech came as he briefly articulated what he stands for not as a basketball player but a citizen of a diverse nation facing persistent political tensions around identity politics, as captured by Politico.
"How do you tell your kids not to be a bully if their president is one? How do you tell your kids to respect their heritage if their president disparages it? How do you tell your daughters they are empowered if their president reduces women to their physical appearance?"
From a political standpoint, Jarron's appearance at the convention comes just days after Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported that Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts played a pivotal role in the NBA's decision to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game out of Charlotte due to North Carolina's anti-LGBT law — the Warriors organization is unquestionably at the forefront of pushing for LGBT rights in the NBA right now.
After hearing @jarronctwin speak at the #DNCinPHL I am more proud of @warriors organization representing what the bay stands for #DubNation— Sharmeen Suri (@SharmeenS) July 26, 2016
And it's hard not to wonder if Jarron Collins might have some political aspirations of his own as well.
excellent little speech by Jarron and Jason Collins. Wouldn't be shocked at all to see Jason Collins have a political future. #DemsinPhilly— Michael Lewis (@michaeljlewis75) July 26, 2016
But in terms of what's humanly at stake, there's a much simpler message behind the words of the Collins twins: At some point, some basic respect of each other's humanity is a requirement for any nation that seeks to exist as a model for how to co-exist democratically. It's not about the passive indifference that comes with tolerance but the active acceptance of the differences that make each of us unique and capable of making contributions that generate more powerful ideas and a more robust understanding of what it means to be human. To exclude or diminish people on the basis of their identity, is fundamentally anti-democratic.
And when that very basic human respect is infringed upon in a democratic society, there's no room for retreating into the cozy silence of neutrality.
For more on Jarron Collins, check out Bram Kincheloe's feature on him from last summer.