Briggs' mysterious tweets send misguided message on Collins

Chicago Tribune sports columnist Steve Rosenbloom on Jason Collins announcing he's gay. (Posted on: April 29, 2013)

I don't know Jason Collins. I wish I did. Bravo for the NBA center's courage in becoming the first male athlete in a major North American league to declare he's gay.

It’s a shame it’s a big deal. But now it’s less so.

On Day 2 of this story, two things must follow:

First, other gay athletes should feel emboldened and proud to declare who they are.

And second, their teammates and opponents should relish the opportunity to play alongside and against such courageous people.

Even if it doesn’t happen immediately, Collins’ spotlight will lead others to act similarly to enjoy their lives fully. That’s progress.

Collins’ spotlight also will shine on those clinging to ignorant, bigoted beliefs. That’s progress, too, and it might mean relegating supposed Bears leader Lance Briggs to the cave in which he apparently lives.

Compare and contrast the following tweets responding to Collins’ announcement on SI.com:

Lakers star Kobe Bryant: “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU”

Former Bears special teams Pro Bowler Brendon Ayanbadejo: “By @jason Collins34 opening doors & doing it his way in his time he has helped shape a more accepting America. May many more follow #courage.”

L.A. Kings forward Dustin Penner: “Honestly, I don’t care if you are gay or straight as my teammates. As long as you don’t listen to Nickelback.”

And then there’s Briggs. Several of his Twitter followers asked him about Collins. Each time, he actively tweeted a response that changed the subject to another Chicago team, ditties like this: “How about those Bulls!!!”

Why would Briggs do that? Why would be choose to respond to that question without actually answering it?

Two possibilities:

One, Briggs might be offering a meta-message meant to say that a player’s sexuality is not an issue.

Or two, Briggs might be a homophobe and intolerant.
 
I went to Briggs’ Twitter timeline on Tuesday morning but couldn’t find the tweets, even the one I cited above that the Tribune ran on Page 2 of the Chicago Sports section Tuesday. It appears Briggs deleted the tweets. Or someone with a working brain and social conscience did it for him.

Miami receiver Mike Wallace sent out some idiot tweets about Collins on Monday, then retracted them with an apology and explanation. That episode might’ve come off as lame, but at least it was a response. Whether he was pushed by the Dolphins or did it on his own, Wallace at least acted like an adult.

Briggs — or someone — just deleted the tweets. Magic. All gone. Never happened.

But those tweets did happen.

Many people — he has more than 72,000 Twitter followers — read them.

Maybe Briggs has his reasons for the way he handled the original tweets and their subsequent disappearance. He’s welcome to explain. I tweeted him, asking why he deleted yesterday’s tweets about Jason Collins. I have not heard back from Briggs but will share when — if — I do.

The Bears should encourage Briggs to explain, lest they get cast as clinging to intolerant beliefs as useless as a Lamborghini cracked up on the side of the Edens. A Bears source said Briggs’ Twitter account is ghostwritten some of the time (maybe that’s who deleted those tweets), but the source told me the team, trying since Monday, has not been able to reach Briggs for an explanation.

There is a compassionate, progressive side of this very human issue and it transcends sports. It is a national matter debated and ruled on a the highest levels. The issue has nothing to do with sports, but when it does, the smart people get it: Competition is competition, and winning doesn’t care about race, religion or sexuality.

We witnessed a first big step Monday. This is a big story and will be for a while. I look forward to the time when it isn’t.

Twitter @steverosenbloom
CHICAGO

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