Social Change in Pro Sports: Sport in Society expert comments

May 01, 2013

When NBA player Jason Collins decided to come out as a gay man in the pages of Sports Illustrated the news media covered the story as a “first.”  To contextualize how professional sports and social change have or have not moved forward together, national and local press reached out to Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Sport in Society at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS).  Sport in Society educates and supports emerging leaders and organizations within sport with the awareness, knowledge and skills to implement innovative and impactful solutions for social change.  Sport in Society partners with the College of Professional Studies on the Master of Sports Leadership degree. 

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker interviewed Lebowitz for his piece titled, Jason Collins’ quiet facilitator, noting:

“Collins’s announcement challenges comfortable but homophobic notions about athletic heroes, said Dan Lebowitz, director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. He calls the revelation a civil rights watershed moment.

‘The sports world is typified by this hyper­masculine definition of manhood that hadn’t allowed for these conversations of an athlete of a different sexual orientation,’ Lebowitz said. “I think it creates a positive self-image for every gay kid who is an athlete or every gay kid who isn’t an athlete. They can find people who are like them.

‘There should be a lot of room for a grand definition of what manhood is. It can be a million things, including being a gay athlete.'”

Following is a sample of media coverage in which Lebowitz has appeared:

The Boston Herald – Ex-Celt Jason Collins exits closet, makes history

Houston Chronicle blog – NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as gay (video clip)

NECN.com – Dan Lebowitz: Jason Collins may take a lot of abuse from NBA fans (video clip)


Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to providing career-focused educational programs that are designed to accommodate the complex lives of motivated learners. Offered in a variety of innovative formats, CPS courses are taught by accomplished scholars and practitioners who have real-world experience. The result is an educational experience founded on proven scholarship, strengthened with practical application, and sustained by academic excellence.

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a comprehensive, global research university. The university offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and more than 165 graduate programs, ranging from professional master’s degrees to interdisciplinary PhD programs. Northeastern’s research enterprise is aligned with three national imperatives: health, security and sustainability. Northeastern students participate in co-op and other forms of experiential learning in 90 countries on all seven continents.