It’s been months since basketball star Jason Collins came out to the world and became the first openly gay active pro baller. Collins, who became a free agent after last season, had hoped to continue his NBA career and sign with a new team by this fall, but with the NBA training camps having been open for a month now Collins is still without a team and wondering if he’s being shut out because he’s gay.
In a new interview with The New York Times, the 34-year-old NBA vet, who has enjoyed a moderate yet consistent 12-year career on pro ball, wonders if it’s his age that has kept him from being picked by a team or if it’s homophobia.
“You don’t want to speculate — I don’t go there,” he said. “I feel there are players in the league right now that, quite frankly, I’m better than.”
“Sure, I’ve picked up another title. But I feel that’s always who I’m going to be — that person who sets a good example, who represents the sport and is an asset to my team and a role model for other players,” Collins said.
Besides Collins’ age is the issue of money and there’s speculation that signing someone with his experience would be far more costly than signing a younger rookie with a whole career ahead of him.
“In my mind it shouldn’t be about that,” Collins said. “The NBA is for the best players, not for the most affordable players. There isn’t a professional athlete that doesn’t want to play 12, 13 years.”
Despite the dismal outlook for Collins, there is one last chance for him to get signed and that chance lies with Doc Rivers, who coached Collins for part of last season in Boston and is now the coach and chief basketball executive of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Let me put it this way: If one of my bigs goes down and he’s not signed, I’m signing him,” Rivers said. “I’m not signing him because he’s gay. I’m not signing him because it’s a story and it brings us attention. I’m signing him because he has a value to help us win. I do have the advantage that I coached him, and I know what type of guy he is, how tough he is.”
Hopefully, Collins will get to carry on with his career and also strongly carry the flag of hope for LGBT athletes who want to go pro. However, his struggle is not unique. Check out some other LGBT stars who struggled after coming out. –nicholas robinson