Jason Collins, 12-year NBA veteran, came out as an openly gay man last April. At the time he was a free agent clearly near the end of his career but one expected to be in play for a handful of spots on NBA rosters for this season.
Now as we are past the NBA season’s midpoint, Collins is not on an NBA team. He didn’t get a contract offer this summer, didn’t get a training camp invite, hasn’t landed a 10-day contract with a team.
Is his coming out part of the reason for that? The topic came up again in the wake of NFL-bound Michael Sam coming out as gay prior to the draft. Collins spoke with Sam about what to expect in terms of reaction.
Newly seated NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked by Darren Rovell of ESPN if Collins coming out is the reason for his not having a contract.
“In terms of Jason not getting signed, based on everything I’ve been told, it’s a basketball decision,” Silver said. “Our teams want to win and Jason waited until the very tail end of his career to make that announcement….
“We want teams to make the best possible decisions from [a] basketball standpoint,” Silver said. “Ultimately that’s what it’s all about. I’m sure Jason was never looking for a special favor or a special slot because he had publicly come out.”
No doubt Collins had a limited market at this point. He’s a good defender in the post, however the league is going small. He’s good on the boards, can set a big pick, but he averaged a point a game last season at age 35.
There are teams that should have considered Collins for a 10-day contract at least this season. Whether those teams decided based on basketball reasons or not, we may never know. To think that he wasn’t discussed — and how his sexuality and standing would play both in the locker room and in terms of marketing in that market (some are better fits than others) — is foolish. To think there were people lobbying against him in those organizations also is naïve.
I’d like to think that the decisions about Collins were all basketball, but I’m too cynical to believe it completely.
That said Collins pushed the conversation along — in NBA locker rooms, in NBA front offices, among fans on Web sites like this and even into American living rooms the debate about gay athletes and how they would fit and should be accepted were aired openly. That was a big step. Sam is taking the next big one.