By Ken Reed

Sportsworld, perhaps the last bastion of pure unadulterated homophobia in American culture, had its closet door kicked slightly ajar in May when NBA player Jason Collins became the first active, openly gay athlete to come out in one of the four major American team sports leagues.

In a poignant letter in Sports Illustrated, Collins wrote about his journey and the reasons he decided to come out when he did.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport, ” wrote Collins. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. … Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”

However, summer has come and gone and Collins remains an unsigned free agent as NBA camps get set to open in a couple weeks. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins had this take on Collins’ current situation:

It was widely assumed he’d land somewhere as an unrestricted free agent to continue his career. Four months later, the wait drags on. The league faces unflattering introspection and a public-relations disaster if Collins goes unsigned. The gay community will not hide its extreme disappointment. The first step in a highly significant movement will be throttled before takeoff.

The consensus of NBA insiders is that Collins can still play. He remains a strong defender, rebounder and imposing big man presence. He’s not starter material but could certainly help a team off the bench.

Here’s hoping Collins’ is signed by some NBA team in the coming days. Being an active NBA player this season would give more gay and lesbian athletes — of all ages and abilities — the courage to come out and be true to themselves.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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