With the 10-day signing of Jason Collins, the Brooklyn Nets are putting themselves in position for a deep playoff run and also a media circus. Collins is the NBA‘s first openly gay player, and the world is watching how his situation is handled not only by the Nets, but by the league as a whole.
How he gets along with his teammates in the locker room is key to the social standards that are placed on professional athletes, whether right or wrong. If the Nets begin to lose, will the blame be placed on his shoulders? How will the team respond to all the microphones that are placed in front of them before and after a game with questions about Collins and his sexual orientation.
The Nets are a veteran team and have the type of leaders in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd that should be able to handle the circus that is sure to follow. Collins just wants to play ball and if Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers is any indication of what he can bring to the team, then the Nets might be in trouble.
Collins played 11 minutes and managed five personal fouls, zero points and two rebounds. The Nets made a choice to go with the 7-foot defensive center instead of signing the 6-foot-9 scoring big man Glen Davis. While Davis would have been the logical choice for many teams he didn’t fit what the Nets were looking for and didn’t offer the kind of publicity that Collins does.
The NBA is a business and all businesses needs great marketing to gain more exposure to the masses. This is almost the same situation the Philadelphia Eagles found themselves in twice when the signed Michael Vick after he was released from prison and after Riley Cooper was videotaped using a racial slur.
What those moments showed the world was that a strong team with great leadership could stand together and overcome any obstacle. It all worked out for the Eagles, and the Nets are hoping that the same will happen for them and Collins.
Many people are watching how the Collins situation plays out. They are looking to see how his team receives him and how the media and fans responds to this signing. This is not the same as Jackie Robinson being the first African American to play in MLB, but it can change the way we as sports fans view gay players.
The Nets are and always will be my team no matter what. So welcome to Brooklyn Mr. Collins, and may you provide the spark that brings them a championship this year.