Seven-footer Jason Collins is set to break a groundbreaking barrier today. Collins, a 35 year old male, is set to sign a 10 day contract with the Brooklyn Nets today. He is best known for his personal life outside of basketball as an openly gay man.
In May 2009, the Stanford graduate wrote a column for Sports Illustrated announcing that he was openly gay. It is a perfect situation as he will return to the team who drafted him and who he played for from 2001-2008. He has appeared in two NBA Finals with the organization and had his best year in the 2004-2005 season averaging over 30 minutes a game and starting 80 of the 82 games.
Collins has been very instrumental in the openness and sexuality within the professional sports arena and has undoubtedly had an influence on the coming out of future NFL draftee Michael Sam. Collins, a Northridge (CA) native and attendee of Harvard Westlake High School, has been training in Los Angeles and is prepared to join the Nets against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight.
Collins should be welcomed into the Nets community as he is often considered a great teammate and locker room influence. He will step into a locker room whose main goal is to win games.
Coach Jason Kidd and Collins had successful years together playing for the Nets, Collins played for the Celtics recently alongside both Kevin Garnett and fellow LA native Paul Pierce, and Collins spent three seasons with all star Joe Johnson in Atlanta so it is expected to be an easy transition.
Though Collins is a trailblazer for professional sports and more significantly men’s sports, WNBA star Brittney Griner is often overlooked. Griner came out in April 2013 almost directly coinciding with Collins’ article in Sports Illustrated. At 6’8, the female professional player and LGBT activist was the first pick in the WNBA draft. During her rookie season last year, she averaged 12.6 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and 3 blocks per game in only 26 minutes per game.
It will be interesting to see if having active professional athletes in both male and female sports will encourage other athletes to come out across sports. Today is an important date in both the LGBT community as well as the sports community as something like sexuality should not be condemned as it used to be. Hopefully in the coming years, this will no longer have to be breaking news or such a rare occurrence in sports.