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Before Jason Collins, There Was Glenn Burke, And A Film Based On His Life Is In Development

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 30, 2013 at 4:33PM

As I'm sure everyone has heard by now, Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, announced he is gay in a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated that appeared online yesterday, Monday.
Glenn Burke
Glenn Burke

As I'm sure everyone has heard by now, Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, announced he is gay in a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated that appeared online yesterday, Monday.

Coverage of Collins' revelation has been quite extensive over the last 24 hours, and continues to be so, as some are hoping that all this fervor will translate into interest in a film project on the life of another openly gay athlete from yesteryear.

Deadline reports that Jamie Lee Curtis and JUMA Entertainment are hoping all the attention to Collins' news will help push forward a film she's apparently been trying to get made for years, on Major League Baseball player, Glenn Burke (photo above), based his autobiography Out At Home: The Glenn Burke Story.

Who's Glenn Burke?

Glenn Burke was the first openly gay Major League Baseball player, which he revealed in 1982 in an Inside Sports magazine article and then on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel.

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976 as an outfielder, and, as a rookie, started during the 1977 World Series. He was soon traded to the Oakland A's as rumors about his sexuality began to swirl. 

He is said to have been already *out* to his family and friends, so he wasn't hiding it, adding that, "by 1978 I think everybody knew,"  he was "sure his teammates didn't care."

Burke would eventually leave the A's shortly after his arrival in Oakland, when he started to feel that he wasn't welcomed because of his sexuality, and he eventually retired from baseball at the age of 27. 

"Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have," Burke said in an interview with the New York Times in 1994. 

A year later, he passed away from AIDS-related complications in May 1995 at the age of 42.

Burke is also credited with inventing the high five.

There was a 2010 documentary on his life, titled Out. The Glenn Burke Story.

Glenn Burke changed the world forever with that one hand slap [...] Yesterday, Jason Collins changed the world forever when he told the truth. It’s a moment of truth that the world has been waiting for,” said Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s producing the film with Robert Horowitz.

Whether or not Collins' announcement does much to affect the progress of Curtis' project is anyone's guess. It's certainly inspired lots of conversation... which is a start I suppose.

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