Jason Collins cleared the next hurdle in his 2014 season yesterday. The Brooklyn Nets have confirmed they will sign him to another 10-day contract. This is the second such contract Collins will sign with the Nets.
The contract he signed 10 days ago made him the first openly gay player to compete in North American sports history. Several players had come out after they had retired but Collins was the first to do it as an active player.
Collins actually came out after the 2012-2013 season but had not been signed by any team until Brooklyn added him to their roster. By NBA rules, a player can only sign two 10 day contracts before the team has to sign that player for the remainder of the NBA year.
So Collins has ten days left until he finds out if he can stay with the Nets for the rest of the regular season. Chances of that happening are good at the moment. Brooklyn is currently thin at the center position and starting center Kevin Garnett has been day-to-day recently with a back injury.
On top of that Collins has been warmly received wherever he has played. Last night was his first in Brooklyn as a member of the Nets and he was greeted with a standing ovation. His jersey is the number one selling jersey in the NBA at the moment.
That is welcome news for the NBA, which has recently come under some fire for some of their teams being accused of tanking their season. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets among others have been identified as teams who have tried to have a losing season so that they can secure a better position in the 2014 NBA draft. Obviously that does not sit well with some season ticket holders.
So Collins clearing this hurdle is a piece of good news for the NBA when they needed it. Teammates and opponents have spoken out on his behalf. Fans have been supportive and Collins has downplayed his sexuality. All these factors combined have helped Collins in getting his second contract and enhanced the NBA’s position of tolerance. If his presence had been viewed as a distraction or turned in to a media circus, then it would have been much tougher for Collins to get this second contract.
Instead he is on the verge of a contract that would carry him through the rest of the season. With the likelihood of that scenario growing by the day one can’t blame the NBA for casting their eyes towards the playoffs. At this moment the Nets are in sixth place and a virtual lock to make the post season. With the good will that has followed the Nets and Collins since this story broke, it is hard to imagine Brooklyn’s standing with television networks not being greatly enhanced in the playoffs. Ratings for regular season games have gone up for the Nets since Collins arrived.
Fans that only watch the NBA during playoff time would be getting their first real exposure to Collins and his story as it plays out on the basketball court, which is really all the Brooklyn Nets wants. At the moment, the playoff scenario will have to wait. For now, the news is Jason Collins cleared his next hurdle.
By Mick Varner