The NBA Was Ready for Jason Collins, Its First Gay Player
With former Celtic and current Wizard Jason Collins’s decision to come out as gay, the question has moved from when an active professional athlete would come out to what comes next? And specifically, how will he be received? Based on reactions from the teammates, coaches, and organizations that have spoken so far, he’s being welcomed with open arms, it seems.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 29, 2013
He was joined by a few other NBAers, including Baron Davis and Steve Nash. NBA Commissioner David Stern released a statement as well saying, “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.” The NBA’s Twitter account has also reteweted statements of support from other players. The Wizards released a statement of praise, too, as did Collins’s former coach on the Celtics, Doc Rivers. Heck, even the Red Sox got in the game:
We salute you, @jasoncollins34 for your courage and leadership. Any time you want to throw out a first pitch at Fenway Park, let us know.
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) April 29, 2013
People were fairly surprised to learn that Collins is strangely well-connected in the Democratic political community, and we’ve been hearing from some of his friends there, too, where you’d expect more reflexive support. And you’d be right. Collins’s college roommate Joe Kennedy III expressed admiration, as did Bill Clinton, father of another Collins classmate, Chelsea. Gov. Patrick said he looked forward to seeing him at next year’s pride parade. The White House, too, had kind words.
For all the support the organization has given him, Collins might worry about fans. “As far as the reaction of fans, I don’t mind if they heckle me. I’ve been booed before. There have been times when I’ve wanted to boo myself. But a lot of ill feelings can be cured by winning,” he wrote in Sports Illustrated. This will probably be a case where it becomes easy to focus on whatever negative voices come forward. Sports Illustrated already disabled comments on the articles associated with his announcement. The comments on Sports Illustrated’s Facebook post contain many expressions of support, but we can’t help but notice a lot of gross slurs, too:
(As an aside: the “Please keep what you do in the bedroom to yourself and off the covers of my magazine,” argument, which comes up a lot on that comment thread, is one we’d be more inclined to buy if it weren’t coming from subscribers of a publication that runs covers like this one once a year. Okay, rant over.)
But then, Doc Rivers’s statement seemed to preempt any fan backlash in his statement, where he said, “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.”