NBC Brings On Liberal Columnist to Hail Gay NBA Player, Demand Supreme Court Back Gay Marriage

Amid the celebration on Tuesday's NBC Today over the "groundbreaking" "game changer" announcement by NBA player Jason Collins that he is gay, co-host Matt Lauer brought on liberal New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, who ranted: "I hope that the league of old men and women on the Supreme Court are paying attention to this....Because same-sex marriage and the constitutionality is now going to be heard....This is a human rights issue, it's not a civil rights issue." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Moments later, after Lauer wondered about the possibility of other players coming out, Lupica proclaimed: "Women have been doing this in sports for a long time. And women have been more accepting about this. And it just kind of verifies that women are a lot smarter and cooler about this stuff and I'm hoping that that transfers now to guys."

In addition to those declarations, Lupica also telegraphed how the liberal press would react if Collins does not get a new NBA contract once his current one expires: "And it's also going to be interesting to see if Jason Collins, who does not have a job for next season, is inhibited from getting a job because of this announcement."

The segment also featured openly gay tennis star Martina Navratilova, who asserted: "[Jason Collins is] going to save lives. There's no doubt in my mind that there's some kid out there that's not going to commit suicide because Jason is out."

In his questions to Navratilova, Lauer referenced his own past advocacy for gay athletes to come out publicly: "We've long been asking the question, when would a man playing a major professional U.S. sport come out and say, 'I'm gay'? We now know the answer to that. So the next question is, what's the impact?...Do you expect, Martina, other professional athletes in the four major sports to now follow suit? Is that important?"

On the April 5 broadcast of Today, Lauer fretted: "...there are lots of gay athletes in major sports, and the fact that they still feel as if they'll be ostracized if they come out is – says something about the times we're living in."

Then on April 9, he implored to an all-liberal panel: "What is it going to take to change that and have someone come out and say it?"


Here is a full transcript of the Lauer's April 30 segment with Lupica and Navratilova:

7:05AM ET

MATT LAUER: Martina Navratilova is a tennis icon who won a record 59 grand slam titles. She came out more than 30 years ago in a very different time. Mike Lupica is a columnist for the New York Daily News, as well as an author and a radio talk show host. Good morning to both of you.

And Martina, let me start with you. We've long been asking the question, when would a man playing a major professional U.S. sport come out and say, "I'm gay"? We now know the answer to that. So the next question is, what's the impact?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think the impact is immediate because we're talking about it. It's an everyday word now, we don't have to hide. And for Jason, I think it's going to make a big difference in his life, of course it already has. But most of all, he will sleep better at night. But he's really leading the way in being the first major leaguer to come out. I can't believe it's 32 years after I came out, but better late than never. I think it's – just puts it on the front page.

And most of all, we don't want being gay to be an issue. It is an issue because we don't have equal rights. I think Jason coming out this way is going to push that forward a little bit. And most of all, he's going to save lives. There's no doubt in my mind that there's some kid out there that's not going to commit suicide because Jason is out.

LAUER: Do you expect, Martina, other professional athletes in the four major sports to now follow suit? Is that important?

NAVRATILOVA: I'm sure that some will come out. You know what? They will play better ball. Because it takes so much energy to be hiding who you are. I mean, Jason hid it from his twin brother. That's how far in the closet he was. So you really cannot be who you are unless you are out there. Unless you come out and you really embrace yourself. Because, as he said, "If a straight guy is marching for my rights, I have to able to do that as well."

LAUER: The time when you came out, 1981, it was very different. You say you didn't get a call from Ronald Reagan, Madison Avenue shunned you, and Mike Lupica was just telling me, relating stories about being at Wimbledon with you, where you were getting a hard time from the fans. So this is a very different time, isn't it?

NAVRATILOVA: It's fantastic. The support that Jason's getting and that any gay athlete is getting. Like I said, it's – we don't want it to be a big deal, but it is because we don't have equal rights. But the media has come a 180, done a 180. Fans have done a 180. And now you're getting support when you come out. So it's – you know, the monkey's off your back. It's like, nobody wants to go back in the closet once they came out. And I'm sure there'll be other athletes who come out. But with each one it'll be a less of a big deal, less of a big deal. And that's what we're all about. We just don't want it to be a big deal, but it still is.

LAUER: Right. Mike, give me two headlines this morning. What's the headline on the sports pages this morning? What's the headline on the front page about this story?

MIKE LUPICA: Okay, the headline on the sports page is, it's a good thing. It'll be interesting to see when it's like the second best quarterback in the National Football League, when it's some huge star. And it's also going to be interesting to see if Jason Collins, who does not have a job for next season, is inhibited from getting a job because of this announcement.

In the greater context, I hope that the league of old men and women on the Supreme Court are paying attention to this. Because same-sex marriage and the constitutionality is now going to be heard, probably in June. And I hope they're looking at the reaction to this in the country. Because it's really, really important. This is a human rights issue, it's not a civil right.

LAUER: Charles Barkley, never shy with his opinion, was asked about this a while ago and basically said, "Look, you know, players in professional sports have been playing alongside gay players for an awfully long time." He wonders if it won't be the fans that give these players who've come out a harder time than their teammates will give them. And will that cause other players not to come out?

LUPICA: Yeah, I'm not sure that this is going to be some great big door swinging open wide now. That there's – you know, that there'll be six players coming out next week. You know what I was thinking about yesterday when this happened? And I've thought this for a long time. Women have been doing this in sports for a long time. And women have been more accepting about this. And it just kind of verifies that women are a lot smarter and cooler about this stuff and I'm hoping that that transfers now to guys.

LAUER: And that gets a smile out of Martina. Martina, thank you so much.

NAVRATILOVA [LAUGHS]: Nice to see you guys.  

LAUER: Michael, thank you very much. Alright, it's good to see you both. Thanks so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC