Jason Collins (AP Photo)
L.A. NBA Player Declares He’s Gay
Los Angeles native Jason Collins has been playing professional basketball for a dozen years with six NBA teams, but few knew who he was until this week when he told the world that he was gay.
In a watershed moment for same sex relationships, Collins a seven-foot reserve center who starred at Harvard Westlake High School and Stanford crafted an essay that will be published in Sports Illustrated magazine and appeared on its website revealing that he is gay. He became the first active professional athlete in the NBA, MLB, NFL or NHL to make such a profound declaration.
The revelation drew praise from President Obama, former President Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBA players, advocate organizations of same sex relationships and thousands of others.
"The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully,” Collins told SI.
I first met Collins and his twin brother who also plays in the NBA and is married with children, when they were teens playing AAU basketball and participating in the Slam ‘N Jam National Invitational Tournament more than 20 years ago.
Both he and his brother have always been considered model citizens and good basketball players. Few if any doubted they would eventually become NBA players, but no one saw this bombshell coming.
When I reached out to former local coaches and players they all declined to speak for the record, but voiced their shock.
One prominent former collegian coach who recruited both the Collins twins said; “I’ve pretty much seen it all, but I never thought I would see this coming. There were never any indications that he could be gay and I have and still do think the world of their family.”
Another former player whose brother played against Collins and his brother expressed his feeling this way; “Wow! I just don’t know what to say. What can you say?”
Current NBA players Brook and Robin Lopez, each seven foot twins followed in the footsteps in the Collins twins to Stanford and looks up to both Jason and his brother Jarron.
Jason Collins said that he reached out to those close to him and informed them before it went public and according to multiple published reports it was a very emotional experience for him, but the support from his family and friends has been overwhelming.
Among those was the woman who thought she would wed Jason. Carolyn Moos, a former Stanford and WNBA center, dated Collins for eight years and was to marry him in 2009 until he suddenly called it off with a month to go. She found out along with most others why just recently.
His twitter account, which had 3,500, skyrocketed to 85,000 after he made his announcement on Monday April 29; by Tuesday April 30 he was on Good Morning America with an audience of millions.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted; “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage#support#mambaarmystandup#BYOU”
President Clinton tweeted; “I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers added in a tweet; Doc Rivers: "I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’s a pro’s pro," read Doc's full statement.
Former Westchester High and UCLA star and teammate of Jason with the Washington Wizards tweeted; “much respect to you. It takes a strong dude to be the first. You’re a hell of a professional and a hell of a teammate.”
Another former local star, Baron Davis who grew up playing with and against the Collins twins before going on to star at UCLA and in the NBA for 13 seasons tweeted; “I am so proud of my bro @jasoncollins34 for being real.”
The subject matter of same sex lifestyle has always sparked a heated debate in the Black and Christian community and ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard put his job on the line vehemently stating his objection of Jason Collins.
Speaking on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," the former New York Times writer said, "I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality. I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”
"If you're openly living in unrepentant sin ... that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," he added.
He also expressed some irritation that those who disapprove of homosexuality are, he says, labeled as intolerant and bigoted.
Even the usually outspoken NBA analyst Charles Barkley was tame when it came to Jason Collins.
"I've said this many times, we've all played with gay players," said Barkley.
"People should be able to disagree if they don't like it and not get crucified," he said.
Barkley added, “I didn’t care who Jason Collins slept with last night and I don’t care who he sleeps with tonight.”
NFL players are already pushing back on the idea of an openly gay player playing in their league.
Recently acquired Miami Dolphins receiver tweeted that with all of the beautiful women in the world he doesn’t understand it before the tweet was quickly deleted.
Former Steeler and Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward added; “I don’t think football is ready, there’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much,” Ward told NBC Sports Radio.
NBA Icon Magic Johnson whose grown son is openly gay stated. “I know Jason and his family well and I support him 100%.”
There are those too who went as far as comparing Collins’ pioneering effort to the great Jackie Robinson who integrated Major League Baseball, but the comparison is not fair to the legacy of Robinson.
Robinson had no choice in the color of his skin and while carefully selected to become the first Black to play in the majors, it is not likely that Collins would endure the bigotry today as a gay man as Robinson did a Black man.