Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in America’s four major professional sports when he signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday (Feb. 23). He then got right in on the action, coming into Sunday’s game between the Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers in the second quarter. The Nets won the game 108-102.
Collins held a press conference before the game, saying that he’s thankful for this opportunity. Nets GM Billy King added that this 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,” says King in a statement.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver also released a statement, saying, “Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”
Kevin Garnett, a nearly 20-year NBA vet who signed with the Nets in 2013, says that signing Collins was a good move for the team. “Great competitor, plays team basketball, is for the team, great
guy, great character,” Garnett tells reporters. “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 biased, and in a sense, racist, if you [were] to keep
that opportunity from a person.”
This was Collins’ first NBA game since April 2013, which is the same month he came out publicly via a profile in Sports Illustrated. Earlier this year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year for 2013 Michael Sam made headlines when he came out prior to the NFL draft in May. He, along with dozens of others, were tweeting their support of Collins Sunday.
I know nothing about basketball but i know that I am very excited for @jasoncollins34! The Nets sure are lucky to have him.
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) February 23, 2014
— Lana Parrilla (@LanaParrilla) February 23, 2014
Dwyane Wade on Jason Collins: “One thing I know about him is he fouled very hard…. Welcome back.”
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 23, 2014
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 23, 2014