Jason Collins Signs With Brooklyn Nets, Becomes NBA’s First Openly Gay Player

Huge news was made in the world of sports today as Jason Collins has signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, making him the first openly gay player to have an active contract in one of the the four big men’s professional leagues. This is the time of year when teams like the Nets, who are currently holding onto the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, try to bolster their rosters in order to make a final playoff push. If Collins plays well and fits the Nets system, he could be signed to another 10-day contract, or signed to a contract for the rest of the season. Collins first came out nearly a year ago, but he hasn’t played at all this season, and this is the first contract he has signed since he made the announcement.

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Several sports news outlets reported that Collins had been working out with multiple teams, including the Nets last week. Although this move is certainly going to draw a lot of attention from the media and will certainly be praised by gay rights advocacy groups, Billy King, the Nets’ general manager said “The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision. 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.”

As Sports Illustrated reports, the Nets have been hoping to sign a big man since their starter Brook Lopez is injured and they want to make sure they can secure a playoff spot. When Glen Davis signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, that made Collins the best choice for the Nets. His familiarity with the team and several players on it, as well as his playoff experience are said to be large factors in the Nets decision. Collins had some of his best years as a pro playing with the Nets, having his highest points per game and rebounds per game averages, as well as going to back-to-back NBA Finals in the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons. One of his teammates during those seasons was current Nets head coach Jason Kidd.

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Several players on the Nets, as well as other out athletes have been offering their support to Collins. Nets forward Kevin Garnet, who previously played with Collins on the Boston Celtics, praised Collins as a “great competitor, plays team basketball, is for the team, great guy, great character.” He then said that the fact that Collins is gay wouldn’t cause any problems at all, “I think it’s important that anybody who has the capabilities and skill level [gets] a chance to [do] something he’s great at. I think it would be bias, and in a sense, racist, if you [were] to keep that opportunity from a person.”

Currently, the next game scheduled to be aired on national TV is their game against the Denver Nuggets this upcoming Thursday, February 27th on TNT. However, given the attention Collins is sure to draw, it wouldn’t be surprising if the NBA and TV networks flex their schedule and decide to show more Nets games this season. ESPN reports that Collins is expected to play his first game with the Nets tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be the first time Collins has played since spring of 2013 with the Washington Wizards.

Collins during his previous time with the Nets via Pings Hoops

Collins during his previous time with the Nets via /0/”>Pings Hoops

Collins’ signing with the Brooklyn Nets is a big moment for men’s professional sports. Things have been moving rapidly in the direction of progress in this one area recently. It started almost a year ago when Collins announced he was gay after his NBA season ended. Then, more recently, NFL hopeful Michael Sam announced that he is gay before even entering the NFL draft, and now reports are showing that NFL teams actually look like they’ll be more welcoming to a gay player in the locker room than we previously thought. With Collins signing a contract and playing professional basketball again, we actually get to see what this talk of acceptance looks like in public.

Collins has been openly gay for almost a year now, and before that he was a well respected NBA veteran. He’s also joining a veteran team with players and personnel who are familiar with him, so his story isn’t going to be typical of every queer male athlete who wants to play professional sports. However, it’s still a remarkable occasion. It’s one thing for a professional athlete to announce that they are gay when they aren’t in a locker room, when they aren’t out on the court. It’s one thing for politicians, other athletes and analysts to say that they’re proud of athletes for coming out and that they support them 100%. It’s a completely different thing to see this all in practice. So far, the NBA has been pretty good at talking the talk when it comes to being a good ally, now it’s time to see how well they can walk the walk.

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Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 154 articles for us.

20 Comments

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    The whole “it’s one thing in theory and another in practice” is so true. I was holding my breathe to hear the reaction of my favourite NBA player, Kevin Durant, but luckily I didn’t have to wait long. I’m not really a Stern lover, but I have got to say, he’s done a pretty good job turning the NBA around and making it be as inclusive as possible.

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    I have really mixed feelings about this.

    On the one hand, this is huge for the NBA and for legions of young queer sports fans everywhere–the fact that coming out has NOT tanked his career, contrary to previous speculation, is so, so, so important and affirming to see.

    …On the other hand, yo, fuck the Barclays center.

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    “first openly gay player to have an active contract in one of the the four big men’s professional leagues.”

    Actually, Glenn Burke was an openly gay may who played baseball for the Dodgers and later the Athletics back in the late 70’s.

    He was also a star basketball player in high school and probably could have made it in the NBA just as well.

    He died of complications related to AIDS in 1995.

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        I am a fan of Burke (and I love the fact that the high five was invented by a gay man), and I totally agree that he was out to his teammates, the Dodgers managers and owners and pretty much all of baseball. However, while he didn’t exactly hide the fact at all, he didn’t publicly come out to the world outside of baseball until after he had stopped playing professionally. He should definitely be acknowledged, though, thanks for reminding me.

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          I see your point, and I hope my comment didn’t come across as slighting Jason Collins’ accomplishment in any way (cause I totally agree it’s awesome), but I think a big part of the reason that Burke wasn’t out “publicly” beyond the world of baseball itself was because the press apparently didn’t care very much and didn’t want to tell his story.

          So given that context, I do think it’s important to keep Burke in this story, or I fear we become complicit in a double-erasure: they didn’t want to tell his story because being openly gay wasn’t acknowledged back then the way it is (at least sometimes) today, and I wouldn’t want to avoid telling his story today because it complicates our hero narrative of the present moment. You know what I mean?

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        Yeah, I totally agree and I feel bad that I forgot to mention Burke in this article. His story is definitely a hugely important step in the narrative of professional male athletes coming out and we absolutely need to make sure that his story is told.

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      In the NBA, players have guaranteed contracts, so if they were to be signed for a whole season, even if a team wanted to fire them, they would still get paid for the full season. So the 10-day contract is basically a try out, to see if the player is someone they want to sign for a longer time period without having to make the full season commitment. After the 10 days, they can release him, sign him to another 10 day contract or sign him for the full season. I hope that makes sense!

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        Thanks! So this is a good thing to have for players? I guess since I’ve never heard of it being implemented in other major sports, I assumed a 10-day contract was a bad thing, like “Oh, you’re not good enough to play with us full-time, so this is a temp gig.”

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      It’s exactly as Mey said. These type of contracts are really common mid-season, which we are currently in. It’s like a dress rehearsal period to make sure the player matches the team before there is a full commitment. The Nets just got Jason in under the wire before there can be no more trades for the season, so if they like him it is likely they will extend his contract all the way to the end of the year- because they can’t switch him for anyone else. It would be Collins or no one, and they need someone of his size to round out their defense.

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    I am SUPER excited for Jason Collins, for more representation in professional sports, and for the Brooklyn Nets.

    Mey, I love that you cover sports for Autostraddle! As a basketball/football loving queer, it gives me a great outlet. And I am so sorry to be this person, but as a forever Detroit Pistons fan I have to point out that you have the Nets going to the NBA finals back to back in the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons. That is incorrect, the Pistons beat the Nets in the Eastern Conference finals during the ’03-’04 season and went on to the NBA finals to beat the Lakers and win the championship.

    Again, I hate that I had to point it out. But every Piston loving bone in my body just couldn’t stay quiet. You do a great job! Keep it up! I look forward to reading more :)

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