Senin, 29 April 2013

With the Words Im Gay an NBA Center Breaks a Barrier

I m a 34 year old N.B.A. center. I m black and I m gay Collins who finished this season with the Washington Wizards writes in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated. The magazine published the article online Monday morning.

With that statement Collins became the first openly gay male athlete who is still active in a major American team sport. Other gay athletes including the former N.B.A. center John Amaechi have waited until retirement to divulge their sexuality publicly.

The announcement followed recent decisions by two other athletes the American soccer player Robbie Rogers and the women s basketball player Brittney Griner to acknowledge that they are gay. When Rogers 25 revealed last month that he was gay he also said he was retiring from soccer. (He has since indicated he may play again.) Griner the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft will soon embark on her professional career.

Collins s announcement was greeted with an outpouring of support from teammates league executives and major National Basketball Association stars Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade among them.

Proud of jasoncollins34 Bryant the Los Angeles Lakers star wrote on his Twitter account. Don t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others. Bryant added two hashtags courage and support.

Some of the league s biggest names followed suit including the Lakers Steve Nash Oklahoma City s Kevin Durant the Knicks Jason Kidd and San Antonio s Tony Parker. Several teams sent out statements of support. Prominent coaches including Boston s Doc Rivers who has worked with Collins gave support in interviews.

However one National Football League player Mike Wallace of the Miami Dolphins posted a comment on Twitter All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys. He later deleted the comment and issued an apology.

And on ESPN the N.B.A. analyst Chris Broussard citing his religious beliefs said that living openly as a homosexual was a sin and that doing so was walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.

But those comments were greatly outweighed by the supportive ones Collins received particularly from his N.B.A. peers.

The overwhelming positive reaction does not surprise me N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern said in a telephone interview. Our players are actually knowledgeable and sophisticated on this issue and our teams understand it completely. I would have expected them to be supportive and they are.

President Obama called Collins to express his support and said he was impressed by his courage according to a Twitter post from the White House. Michelle Obama on her account called Collins s announcement a huge step forward for our country.

Collins becomes a free agent July 1 and intends to pursue another contract which might be viewed as a truer test for how N.B.A. teams deal with a gay athlete. However complicating that question is the fact that Collins at 34 is a marginal player with limited skills more valued for his locker room presence than his play and not at the top of anyone s list of players to sign. He appeared in just 38 games this season which he split between the Boston Celtics and the Wizards and was used sparingly.

Collins was never among the most skilled centers to begin with instead relying on his size (7 feet 255 pounds) intelligence and work ethic to carve out a niche after being drafted 18th over all in 2001.

In his Sports Illustrated essay Collins alludes to his future in the league I ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.

Zach Schonbrun contributed reporting.

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