Game Changer

Jason Collins Becomes First Openly Gay Major Sports Athlete By Checking Into Game

It was the kind of thing that basketball bench players do all the time: checking into a game to replace an injured or weary starter. But this time the Staples Center crowd in LA realized history was in the making at 10:28 in the second quarter in the otherwise meaningless face-off between the Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets.

They stood and cheered for Jason Collins, the journeyman player who had just signed a 10-day contract, and was now taking the floor as the first openly gay NBA player in the league’s 68-year history. He had just become something much more than a basketball player: A trailblazer who broke nearly a century of a de facto prohibition on openly gay athletes in major American team sports, a veritable civil rights icon for equality.

“Sometimes in life something happens and there’s an opportunity,” he said shortly before the game against the┬áLos Angeles Lakers┬áSunday night. “I’m very thankful for this opportunity. That’s why I work so hard, why I train the way I do so that when I do have an opportunity physically I’m not worried about my conditioning.”

Collins breakthrough was about more than his physical self, 7 feet and 250 pounds of muscle. It was about the courage to declare himself in a profession almost defined by its antipathy to gay players and people.

Jason Collins signs contract with Brooklyn Nets

The Nets, who signed him earlier in the day, did all the right things, making sure the world knew that Collins had been hired exclusively for his ability to help the team and that no one would be allowed to make life difficult for the 35-year-old center, a well regarded veteran of the league.

“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” Nets general manager Billy King said. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”

Congrats, Jason. One small step for a great man, one big step for LGBT America.

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  • NG22

    Really classy of the Lakers fans to show him respect like that. I’m not so sure if Oklahoma City fans would’ve done the same thing.

  • yaoming

    Way to get the jump on Michael Sam.
    Just hope he didn’t break a sweat because he couldn’t possibly expect to use the same showers as all the other straight players, could he?

  • Dakotahgeo

    It’s about frickin’ time! Hopefully this will open the gates of sports to ALL qualified sports people and not just the ‘jocks’!

  • Aric

    We’ve all just witnessed history, ladies and gentleman.

  • tjr101

    Well done, and the Brooklyn Nets won too!

  • myrdraal2001

    Why aren’t any of you guys giving any credit to Robbie Rogers? Doesn’t the MLS (Major League Soccer) count for you? He has been out and playing for the LA Galaxy since last year. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t a big thing for basketball, but soccer IS a sport and it IS major league.

  • Kangol

    Jason Collins and the Brooklyn Nets, making history! Congrats to both, and to the NBA too. All in all, a net good for our country!

    (And pretty cool that he follows in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson, who broke another major barrier with a Brooklyn team back in 1947!)

  • JDJase

    @myrdraal2001: In America, no. If it isn’t football, basketball, or Nascar, Americans don’t give a shit.

    I love Robbie though. And I’d prefer soccer over football/basketball (and of course I say this as a swimmer, one of those other sports nobody give a shit about lol)

  • Respect4all

    @Kangol: Yay Brooklyn. From a Brooklynite. I guess the Nets wanted to get the jump on the NFL. What’s with a 10-day contract?

  • Geoff B

    Awesome! I’m not a huge NBA fan, but am thrilled for him just the same. Hopefully it’ll become more than a 10 day contract and become a long term deal. Mr.Collins, I wish you all the sucess in the world and may your talent and class shut the naysayers up once and for all. I live in an area without an NBA franchise, but if a long term deal comes of it, I’ll be proud to be a Brooklyn fan and proud to buy your jersey!

  • jar

    I hate to not join in on the celebration, but this smacks of tokenism. It’s a little too convenient that a flailing Nets team (that can’t sell any seats to its games, given its dismal record) has decided to use this stunt to garner publicity and possibly sell tickets. Let our athletes rise on their merits (and not be stifled because of their orientation). That does not mean I cannot applaud and be happy for Jason Collins.
    The one good thing about this spectacle is that it may take a lot of attention and heat off of Sams’s sexuality as the draft approaches.

  • Black Pegasus

    I’m not against Jason Collins, but I have to question the timing of the team and their true motives. Michael Sam is the true trailblazer in my view.

  • sportyguy1983

    The fact it was a 10 day contract speaks volumes about this being a publicity stunt. I just hope that when he doesn’t get resigned at the end of this contract because he the novelty is over and he isn’t producing (which is the reason why he was released before coming out) that the gay activists don’t scream homophobia.

  • Kangol


    The 10-day contract is standard because unless a team is sure it wants to sign a player for the season, it can offer two successive 10-day contracts and not have to commit for the season. The Nets may decide they need Collins’s services and keep him on through the playoffs, which would mean a contract through June (or whenever the season ends).

    @Black Pegasus:

    I hear you, but I still think Collins’s signing and play last night was hugely significant. He came out before Sam, and while still an active player. He is now playing in one of the four major US team sports. It’s a groundbreaking act, and it wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t come out last spring. Where are the rest of the gay NBA players? He surely isn’t the only one!

  • Respect4all

    @Kangol: Thanks for the explanation. I don’t know much about the NBA.

  • alterego1980

    The Lakers issued 50 more media passes to the game than usual. But about half the stadium didn’t realize or care about the momentous occasion when he checked in. This is great news. It shows everyone that the world doesn’t end if a pro player really is gay.

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