By now, you’ve all heard the news – journeyman center Jason Collins came out as gay in an essay for Sports Illustrated that was published online early Monday morning. Collins has played for several teams in his NBA career, including a stop with the Grizzlies at one point. While he has never been known as an especially flashy player, he has developed a reputation as an excellent defensive player, as well as an excellent teammate. But after his revelation on Monday, his playing abilities will be the last thing anyone – other than Ben Shapiro, who made a complete fool of himself – will want to talk about.
So let’s talk about Collins’ decision means for the NBA, and for sports in general. Well, for one thing, we’ll never have to hear the endless question of when a professional athlete will come out. It’s finally happened, and hopefully, it will open the floodgates for many others to do the same. Collins deserves an immense amount of credit for being the first, however. Even though the reaction to this from other players has largely been positive, there are still some homophobia out there, not just in the locker room, but in the crowd. If Collins catches on with another team, there will almost certainly be a few unfortunate fans yelling homophobic slurs at them from their seats. We can only hope that number will be very small, and that the majority of opposing crowds will avoid going down that road.
But of course, this begs the question of whether he’ll even be able to find another team. Collins is still a strong defender, but he’s become a liability on the offensive end, and opposing coaches will only be wiling to keep him in the game for so long, when they’ll essentially be playing 4-on-5. After only getting minimal minutes for the Celtics and Wizards this season, he might have a hard tie finding another team that is willing to put him on the court.
Still, considering his sterling reputation as an excellent teammate, he’ll likely end up somewhere. As for how his sexuality will effect his chances of being signed, it could go either way. Some executives may fear homophobic fans causing problems at games, while others may welcome the positive PR that would come with being the first team to sign an NBA player. My guess is he’ll sign somewhere, and when he does, it’ll cause a brief bit of media frenzy, but eventually, he’ll play the same minor role he did last year, and the press will largely disappear from the situation.
In any case, it was extremely courageous for Collins to be the first male athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay, and he’ll be known for the rest of his career as a player who broke down one of the biggest barriers in sports. Regardless of what he does on the court, or whether he even gets on the court again, he should be viewed as nothing less than a hero.