Jason Collins gay

Jason Collins’ coming out as gay shouldn’t affect his free agency

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When I read Jason Collins’ story in Sport Illustrated coming out as gay, my first thought was: good. This is an exciting moment, a historic declaration by Collins, who is tearing down the homophobia that once permeated through American team sports.

Much later, my another thought kicked in: dread.

As Collins notes in his story, he’s a pending free agent who still wants to play in the NBA. What he doesn’t say: he’ll turn 35 next season, his offense is practically non-existent, and he rebounds poorly.

If no NBA team signs him this summer, the narrative will surely shift into basketball’s small-mindedness. Collins will become a martyr, and NBA teams will be vilified.

That would be unfair to everyone involved.

Collins will surely be compared to Jackie Robinson, who baseball didn’t run out of the game simply because he was black. But Robinson was 28 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and had Hall of Fame-caliber talent. Collins’ premier NBA accomplishment is leading the league in fouls in 2004-05, and he was a much better player then.

Collins is an extremely limited player – he’s has more fouls than points in six of his last seven seasons – and he’s declining, as nearly all players do, with age. He made his late-career mark for defending Dwight Howard, but Howard shot 6-for-8 and scored 19 points in 24 minutes against Collins this year. Collins’ most obvious physical comparison is his twin brother Jarron, who last played in 2011.

The Celtics and Wizards allowed fewer points per possession with Collins on the court, so there’s certainly potential he can still contribute. But signing any 34-year-old, especially a big man, comes with significant risk.

After watching closely as his Nets gave the Pistons fits in the playoffs a decade ago, I developed a healthy respect for Collins, who was definitely underrated while starting with Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin.

But no player can outlast father time, and it’s at least possible Collins time has passed as an NBA player for no other reason than he’s no longer good enough. That’s totally OK.

Please don’t make Collins’ free agency – without evidence of malfeasance – part of the case that professional basketball isn’t accepting of gay players. (If there is reliable evidence, please make a huge deal out of it.)

Yesterday, Collins wasn’t lock to stick in the NBA, and the same is true today. It’s great to celebrate Collins’ announcement for what it is – a monumental moment in not just sports, but American, history. But, when the time comes to judge Collins’ playing ability, let’s do so for what it is: right on the border of NBA level.

If an NBA team signs him this offseason, great. If not, that’s fine too. That’s what happens to players like Collins. Let’s not taint his legitimate basketball ability by making his free agency about today’s announcement. As Collins writes, he wants to “show that gay players are no different from straight ones.”

Support for Jason Collins coming out pouring in through statements, twitter

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Jason Collins is not the first gay player in professional sports, and you’re kidding yourself if you think he’s the only one in all of the NBA, NFL or MLB right now. Collins however is the first to come out while an active player (he played with the Celtics and Wizards last season, he is currently a free agent).

Coming out was a bold thing and as soon as he did a number of voices came out in strong support.

That started with his own twin brother (who Jason just came out to last year):

The Washington Wizards, who Collins ended last season with (after being traded to the team in the deal that sent Jordan Crawford to Boston), issued a statement.

“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”

Doc Rivers, who coached Collins in Boston, also issued a statement in support.

“I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collin.” Rivers said. “He’s a pro’s pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite “team” players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance. One of my favorite sayings is, I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be its not up to you, it’s just me being me.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said he didn’t think this would be a huge impact in the locker room, via the twitter of Eric Koreen of the National Post in Canada.

“I don’t think he would be treated any differently. I think what is underestimated is the maturity of NBA players and how respectful guys are of others’ personal lives.”

A lot of NBA players and other figures took to twitter to voice their thoughts, including Kobe Bryant.

Former president Clinton released a longer statement as well.

“I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”

As we had already noted NBA Commissioner David Stern made a statement as well:

“As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

Not all the responses were positive, although most of the negativity has come from fans and commenters. Cedric The Entertainer tried to be funny but wasn’t. Then there was NFL wide receiver Mike Wallace, the former Steeler who just signed with the Dolphins in the offseason. He wrote:

All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH….

Well done Wallace, it’s not like there is a large gay community in Miami….

It didn’t take long before that was taken down and replaced with:

That said, the overwhelming response that I have seen is positive.

Veteran NBA Center Jason Collins: “I’m gay”

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Journeyman NBA center Jason Collins has come out as gay, the first active professional major team sport athlete to do so.

He wrote an article for Sports Illustrated (that hits newsstands May 6) and came out on his terms in his own words.

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand….

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.

You need to go read the entire story by him. It’s powerful. He talks about his road to discovery, coming out to his family and friends, and even that he wore No. 98 last season in honor of Mathew Shepard.

Good for Jason Collins. This is a bold and strong move.

source:  Collins is a 12-year NBA veteran, a solid defensive center who last season split time between the Celtics and Wizards. He was a high school powerhouse along with his brother Jarron, the pair went to Stanford together and took that team to the NCAA Final Four, and he has had a solid professional career where he has been the starting center on teams that made good playoff runs including making it to two NBA finals. He maybe is best known in hoops circles for being a defensive force for the Nets and providing size inside against the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and later on Chris Bosh and more.

As he says, Collins is a free agent.

This is going to bother some in the NBA community and some in locker rooms. But studies have shown that acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle is much, much higher among younger generations than older ones. And the NBA is filled with younger athletes. The general sense I’ve gotten from most players when this topic comes up is that if the guy can play, if he can contribute to a winning culture, most players don’t care what he does or who he does it with when he leaves the locker room. This isn’t a big deal to them.

I hope that is the case. I hope some team picks him up as a veteran big man off the bench and he gets a real shot next year to help a team. He is at the end of his career — teams want someone who can contribute and he can’t do a ton of that anymore — but I would hope he lands somewhere. And that this really ends up being no big deal and we can start to show that we as a society have moved past this kind of petty bigotry.