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Move Over Michael Sam, Jason Collins To Be First Openly Gay Major Pro Team Player

Jason Collins

Michael Sam earned all the headlines this weekend with his self assured performance at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, when he told reporters he’d rather be know as “Michael Sam, football player, not Michael Sam, gay football player” while at the same time acknowledging the historic importance of his attempt to earn a spot in the NFL as the sport’s first openly gay athlete.

Meanwhile, Jason Collins, in the twilight of a respectable NBA career, was quietly negotiating a contract with the Brooklyn Nets and is expected to suit up for tonight’s game. When the ink on his 11-day contract dries, he will become the first pro team sport player in any of the four major American sports–baseball, basketball, football or hockey. The distinction of being the first pro team sports player is actually already owned by Robbie Rogers, a soccer player with the LA Galaxy.

Collins, who at age 35 is considered on the downside of his career, has never been a star player, playing 12 NBA seasons, six of which were with the Nets when they played in New Jersey. He had sat out most of this season as teams shied away from him both because of declining skills and, some charge, because executives feared the distraction of media coverage of the historic feat. At over 7 feet tall, with a decent touch around the hoop, he filled a position of need for the surging Nets. The team was reportedly impressed with Collins attitude and conditioning despite having not played professionally since last season.

Michael Sam

For his part, Sam handled questions about the famously hostile NFL locker room at the combine with a maturity that belies his 22 years.

“I’m not afraid of going into that environment,” he told a throng of reporters. “I know how to handle myself. I know how to communicate with my teammates.”

What if he is gay baited?

“If someone wants to call me a name, I’ll have a conversation with him,” he said. “And hopefully that will be the end of that.”

Standing 6’3 and sporting 250 pounds of muscle, we don’t doubt it at all.

While it may not seem this way to Sam and Collins–striving to begin and prolong careers in the heat of the moment–they are likely to be remembered more for their courage in coming out in a hostile environment and less for the accomplishments on the football field or basketball court.

In the end, doing both well with grace and aplomb may be the greatest testament to these brave men who are making the world safer for athletes everywhere.

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  • NG22

    Congratulations, Jason! We’re rooting for you, especially since the bitch ass Knicks are allergic to winning.

  • Mdterp01

    Congratulations Jason. That is excellent news. Best of luck!!!

  • LadyL

    And can I just add as an African-American, I am so proud that these trailblazing heroes are gay BLACK men. More please!

  • Dixie Rect

    Great news! Robbie Rogers must be in a tizzy.

  • litper

    @LadyL: yeah really love how men of color are our bravest brothers!

  • orcanyc

    Congratulations Jason!!! You make us proud.

  • contos

    Sadly,’s article announcing this is already starting to be filled up with hateful comments. Maybe this could be an opportunity to let SI’s readers know that such attitudes are no longer welcome in a civilized society – even in the sports world.

  • robirob

    I think it is weird that all of a sudden there is this race to be the first openly gay sports player in one of the four major sports in the US.

  • dougmc92

    part of me is wondering if NBA is trying th beat NFL to the punch. Either way, Congrats Jason!

  • katbox80

    @LadyL: Yeah that is pretty interesting, considering that that general “race” has been pretty homophobic with guys that remain on the “DL” for most/all of their life.

  • contos

    @contos: It looks like they’ve now closed the article to commenting and deleted all of the comments that were posted.

  • Aromaeus

    @katbox80: You are an indiot.

  • Kangol


    Right there with you! Congrats to Jason Collins, the Brooklyn Nets (Brooklyn, baby!!!!) and the NBA! Brothers showing how it’s done.

    Now when are more players NBA players going to come out? And with Michael Sam being the first in the NFL, who’ll be next?

    MLB, who’s first on your list? NHL?

  • Respect4all

    @katbox80: Homophobia may manifest itself differently in different cultural groups, but in my experience African-Americans are no more anti-gay than any other Americans.

  • carolynrdelarosa

    my neighbor’s mother-in-law makes $75 /hour on the internet . She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her income was $18167 just working on the internet for a few hours. browse around this website……….

  • Respect4all

    @LadyL: I’m white, but I’m with you. Interesting that none of the media outlets have pointed this out. Of course, statistically speaking, it’s predictable that the first gay NBA player would be black. I hope Collins and Sam will be helpful to gay black men who have been afraid to come out in their communities.

  • Mezaien

    Michael Sam, Jason Collins, the hottest dude in sports (of course A, American) and the reason I`m watching the game. M m m m hot guys.

  • Black Pegasus

    It’s just a 10-day contract.. and Collins didn’t score one single point in his debut game. I think the NBA did this for selfish reasons. They wanted to be first by signing Miss Collins.

    Michael Sam is the real man with courage!

  • JennyFromdabloc

    @Black Pegasus: I agree. Jason had nothing to lose by coming out since he was an average player on the tail end of his career. Michael Sam is from THE power conference in NCAA football and had everything to lose entering the draft.

    Still, have to give props to Jason, Michael & Robbie for being brave.

  • alterego1980

    @JennyFromdabloc: @JennyFromdabloc: Stupid comments, both of you. Jason had everything to lose. Any journeyman can easily be passed over by teams. If he he hadn’t come out, he may have been playing this whole season.

  • JennyFromdabloc

    @alterego1980: He had nothing to lose. He had no endorsements. He had no teams beating down his door to sign. If anything, Jason’s coming out made him more interesting to organizations. What Jason has done is ensured himself a corporate gig with the NBA, which is his smartest move.

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