Jason Collins and the Brooklyn Nets agreeing on a 10-day contract is about much more than adding depth to a depleted NBA front-court. Normally, these signings are just water under the bridge and rarely make headlines, but Jason Collins has just become the first openly gay active professional athlete in any of the four major sports leagues.
For a mediocre 13-year NBA veteran center who has averaged just 3.6 points throughout the entirety of his days, this is more the type of earth-shattering impact that a 13-time All-Star would make. Collins came out roughly ten months ago in an elaborate spread in Sports Illustrated.
“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,” Collins told SI. “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this.”
An interesting addition that thickens the plot is Nets’ Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov’s native country has come under intense heat due to Vladimir Putin’s new laws against gay propaganda. Prokhorov was very outspoken against Putin’s comments, saying how it violated human rights. Signing Collins was the ultimate statement to separate Prokhorov from any possible negativity that may have come along with Putin’s decision, according to a piece by Andrew Keh in The New York Times.
Collins has broken a boundary here and further advanced the nationwide acceptance of homosexuality. University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has recently caused an enormous stir by coming out as well, likely becoming the first openly gay NFL player in a few short months. Major League Soccer star Robbie Rogers also has come out recently.
Collins has echoed the same sentiments as Sam, making it known that it is important in the progression of the issue that gay athletes become recognized as professional athletes instead of gay athletes. Sexuality has no impact on the field and the media frenzy that Collins and Sam have sent through the NBA and NFL will eventually wind down. Because of players like them, future athletes will be able to come out and have it just be nothing more than a side story.
The fact of the matter is that Collins is the perfect type of player to break this boundary in the NBA. The elephant in the room is that he is only on a 10-day contract, and the pressure will be on for him to prove that he deserves another. In his SI excerpt, he added that he goes against the gay stereotype.
“Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn’t make you soft?” said Collins, who also documented how he once fouled a player so hard that he left the arena on a stretcher, though he wasn’t proud of it.
Jason Collins signing with the Brooklyn Nets is something that resonates not just in the NBA, or the sports world in general. This is a monumental issue of an athlete trying to crush many stereotypes that still plague a society afraid to think outside the box. Regardless of how his contract plays out, Collins is undoubtedly a true champion.
Editorial by Justin Hussong
New York Times