Jason Collins celebrates gay ‘label’ and details how culture of homophobic language has ‘shifted’ in the last decade | NBA News
In May 2013, Jason Collins revealed he was gay in a first-person essay in Sports Illustrated.
Ten years on, the former Brooklyn Nets center has opened up on the ‘overwhelmingly positive’ response to him coming out, and how the NBA has shifted its stance on challenging homophobic language.
“It was a little scary,” Collins told Sky Sports. “There have been others before me, like John Amaechi, a team-mate of my brother”.
Amaechi, a former Orlando Magic, and Utah Jazz player came out publicly five years earlier in 2007 in his memoir, ‘Man in the Middle’, which would go on to become a New York Times bestseller.
“Shortly after John retired, he came out. My brother was able to get in contact with him, I was able to get in contact with him and he gave me some great advice. He said to mentally prepare myself to be called ‘the gay athlete’.
“Before that, everyone described me as being the pros’ pro. As a seven-foot-tall African American, it’s just another label they throw at you.
“I’m out, proud, and gay. I celebrate it.”
The response Collins, who played for Stanford in his college days, received was “overwhelmingly positive”, and he had special praise for the NBA’s leadership team.
“I felt extremely supported at the time, in particular the commissioner David Stern, and then Adam Silver after him. I couldn’t have done what I did without their leadership.”
The 44-year-old also commented on how the culture around challenging homophobic language has changed since he played.
“When I first came into the league back in 2001, the language was completely different. You could even say [homophobic] things in press conferences. That started to change in 2007 and 2008. They started fining people, a minimum fine was $50,000.
“There were superstars in the league who got caught using that language and were fined. If the superstars can get fined, then everybody can get fined. And that’s when the culture started to shift.
“I saw that and thought ‘that’s a good message they’re sending out’ – and if and when I have the confidence to come out, I know I’ll have the support of the leadership within the NBA.
“And then Doc Rivers, my coach at the time, did an interview for a local LGBTQ+ Boston organisation, and in that interview, he spoke about coaching John Amaechi and his words again gave me strength and support. So, I was constantly looking for those signals from people.”
He added: “If you have policies in place, you have to enforce them 100 per cent of the time, so the focus should be continued support and enforcement of those policies to send that message to closeted athletes who might be looking for those signals as I did.
“I’m very proud of the work I do in the NBA, and with franchises.
“I have to shout out the Brooklyn Nets. They do a pride night every year. I’ve been there for several years and have been able to do a community assist award celebrating the LGBTQ+ community”.