Jason Collins has played in the NBA for 12 years. After the end of last season, when he played for the Washington Wizards, he came out in Sports Illustrated, then didn’t re-sign with the team, instead becoming a free agent. On Sunday, the Nets signed him to a 10-day contract, making him the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA—or any professional sports league in America. He played in a game just a few hours after joining the team. “He failed to score in 11 minutes,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “but had a pair of rebounds and finished with a plus-eight rating in a 108-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers”
Brooklyn has a history of breaking barriers in professional sports, going back to when the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson in 1947. But Collins’s debut had less fanfare (though he did receive a standing ovation at last night’s game). The move was framed as a “basketball decision” rather than as a historic one, which could be read as a sign of progress for gay rights. “The Nets had an open roster spot, [head coach Jason] Kidd’s friend Collins fit their needs, and a deal was struck in the same way any 10-day contract comes together,” the Journal reports.
The move is unlikely to have an effect on the Nets’ season: Collins isn’t known for scoring, and he’s not expected to get much time on the court. But he can become a source of pride for fans and previously uninterested locals. “This is a huge deal. This is beyond a three-pointer,” former City Councilmember Christine Quinn, the first openly gay speaker of that institution, told the Journal. “Asked if she planned on seeing the Nets play in Brooklyn, Quinn added, ‘I am now.'”
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