After talking for the last week about linking up, the Brooklyn Nets and Jason Collins have agreed on a 10-Day contract, which will make the center the first openly gay athlete to play for a major professional sports team in the United States. The move will likely lead to a contract for the rest of the current season, and makes Collins a hero for civil rights in the way that Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks once were.
While some may believe that labeling Collins a civil rights hero is wrong given the fact that NFL Draft prospect Michael Sam recently came out as gay, there is no doubting it is a huge step forward for society. This is because there are approximately nine million LGBT people in the United States today, which undoubtedly includes a decent amount of athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Until now, they have had to hide their sexuality in fear of being cursed at, threatened physically or even losing friendships with homophobic teammates, but Collins has taken the giant step forward of breaking this trend.
Whatever stigma that still remains towards LGBT people has had one giant crack put into it, and Collins will hold the hopes of the gay community whenever he gets on the court at Barclays Center. There is no doubting that even in rather progressive Brooklyn that he will hear vile and juvenile things and will not be accepted by some people that he previously thought were friends, much in the way that Robinson did when he first suited up with the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947.
Collins certainly will not be as successful on the court as Robinson once was on the field, but everyone knew this going in. The 35 year old will be expected to play roughly 10 minutes per game behind Andray Blatche at the center position, and will be lucky to average five points and three rebounds per game. Surely Collins is going to be relied upon more to bring his character and maturity to a veteran locker room, and to keep morale high as the Nets look to make a deep run in the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
But on the court performance is truly not the biggest part of the Nets making the move to sign Collins, as this is a landmark move for the NBA and sports in general. For the NBA, this is a landamark achievement, as they will forever be known as the league that was mature enough to welcome a gay man into their ranks, and for sports, this should be an opening of the floodgates for athletes to be open with who they are.
Last of all, this will provide Collins and his teammates with the chance to show that professional athletes are mature enough to treat LGBT people with dignity, and society should follow suit.