Skip to content

Chorus of praise from Obama, others for Jason Collins shows times, they are a changin’

Apr 30, 2013, 7:59 AM EDT

Jason Collins AP

Six years ago retired NBA player John Amaechi came out and announced he was gay after a four-teams-in-five-years NBA career. The reaction was decidedly mixed within the basketball community. What we all remember most was Tim Hardaway saying, “I hate gay people” (a stance he has since recanted).

There was a smattering of hate when Jason Collins came out as a gay man on Monday, but the tone was largely different — like polls have shown America’s attitude has shifted on the issue of gay and lesbian rights, the attitude of the NBA community has shifted. Collins spoke with Amaechi before making his announcement, but the reaction — including some very thoughtful journalism — is the sign of the steps we as a nation are taking toward acceptance, particularly among younger generations. And NBA is a young man’s game. There are many more steps to take, but some have been clearly taken.

In a sign of that, a number of players — including Kobe Bryant, a guy once fined for using a gay slur on the court — quickly came to Collins’ support. Then there was the call Collins got from President Barack Obama.

Hours after Collins disclosed his sexuality in an online article, Obama reached out by phone, expressing his support and telling Collins he was impressed by his courage, the White House said.

In the past couple years I was in an NBA locker room pregame (along with another reporter) speaking casually with guys getting ready for warm-ups when the topic of having a gay teammate came up (no, I’m not naming the players in an off-the-record conversation). One player said he would uncomfortable with an openly gay teammate. But the guy at the next locker looked up and piped in with a question “Can the guy play?” And among younger players that seems to be the focus — if he can contribute they don’t care what he does off the court. NBA players are protective of their privacy and are willing to extend that courtesy to others.

There has been a reaction from some that “is this a big deal?” But it is because unlike going into law or medicine or insurance sales, the professional team sport locker room was one last inhospitable work environment for gays.

Collins has helped changed that. You can bet there are other gay athletes right now in other American team sports who feel empowered by what Collins did. Amaechi told the AP that younger gay athletes also saw what Collins did and it gave them hope.

“I’m getting tons of messages right now from people talking to me about him, about what he’s done,” Amaechi told The Associated Press. “I’ve spoken to a couple of college athletes in the States and a couple of high school athletes who are very good who have been immensely buoyed by this news. They feel a weight lifted off them even if they aren’t out and they aren’t going to come out at this point.”

It’s another step in the march we as a nation are taking on the issue. Not everyone is going to come along but the path the nation is on with this issue is pretty clear. (Why do you think so many career politicians are changing their views on this? Self-preservation is a strong political instinct.)

Collins has taken a bold step. But the tone of the reactions just six years later shows how many steps we have already taken on this issue.

Latest Posts
  1. Top 10 dunks of Las Vegas Summer League (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT

    Andrew Wiggins AP

    The Andrew Wiggins spin and dunk is a thing of beauty.

  2. Report: Hawks sign Shelvin Mack to three-year, $7.3 million deal

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Milwaukee Bucks Getty Images

    He is a solid backup to have while Dennis Schroder develops.

  3. Report: Will Cherry drawing interest from Cavaliers, Raptors

    Jul 25, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Will Cherry was fun to watch at Las Vegas Summer League.

  4. Tom Thibodeau considers Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson starters

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Bulls also must make room for Nikola Mirotic in frontcourt

  5. Dirk Nowitzki plays baseball (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Dirk Nowitzki Dirk Nowitzki

    Dirk Nowitzki presents a big strike zone.

  6. Report: NBA wants to avoid massive salary-cap spike

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    New TV deal expected to drastically increase revenue

  7. Newspaper seeks LeBron James beat reporter

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat - Game Two Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat - Game Two

    Not a Cleveland Cavaliers beat reporter. A LeBron James beat reporter.

  8. Report: Bulls promised not to trade Nikola Mirotic

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Nikola Mirotic, Gar Forman Nikola Mirotic, Gar Forman

    Rookie big man has been mentioned in Kevin Love trade rumors

  9. Report: Cavaliers leading Kevin Love-trade sweepstakes

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    Kevin Love Kevin Love

    Timberwolves reportedly come to their senses, prefer Andrew Wiggins to Klay Thompson

  10. Report: Francisco Garcia looking at options, including return to Rockets

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

    Francisco Garcia AP

    Francisco Garcia opted out of a veteran minimum deal, he will re-sign for a veteran minimum deal.

  11. Spurs’ Matt Bonner brings the championship trophy home to New Hampshire (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Bonner is one of a few Spurs teammates taking the trophy on tour this summer.

  12. Sixers sign another injured player, agree to deal with Pierre Jackson

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Pierre Jackson AP

    Sixers continue their plan of seeking out delayed gratification.

  13. Agency that reps Ray Allen says reports he intends to play for Cavaliers are ‘unfounded,’ no decision has been made

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Miami Heat's Allen and James slap hands during the second half of Game 4 of their NBA first round playoff series in Milwaukee Reuters

    Despite reports that Allen was on the verge of signing with Cleveland, nothing has been decided just yet.

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Love (4237)
  2. T. Warren (4100)
  3. L. James (3843)
  4. R. Allen (3564)
  5. A. Wiggins (3351)
  1. K. Bryant (2885)
  2. D. Rose (2809)
  3. E. Bledsoe (2745)
  4. J. Nelson (2582)
  5. K. Marshall (2268)