Most of the world stood in applause of Jason Collins after he pulled himself out of NBA limbo following his high-profile coming out moment and was signed to the Brooklyn Nets. However, not everyone was supportive of the NBA’s first active, openly gay player and he recently revealed that he was taunted by a rival player over his sexuality during one of his early games with the Nets.
Collins detailed the tense interaction during a recent interview with the New York Daily News, calling the player a “knucklehead” for his comments.
“One player, one knucklehead from another team,” Collins said in an interview with the Daily News. “He’s a knucklehead. So I just let it go. Again, that goes back to controlling what you can control. That’s how I conduct myself; just being professional.”
Experts note that Collins may experience some more homophobic taunts as the Nets travel through the Bible Belt this season, where progressive lawmakers are still struggling to pass legislation for marriage equality. “You can’t control what other people are going to do,” he said, noting that his mother’s family is from Louisiana and he’s looking forward to the trip.
Despite the potential homophobic distractions, Collins assures that he’ll play to the best of his abilities. “Not just for myself, but I think for everyone; this shows that ‘distraction’ is B.S. That it’s about the team, it’s about the sport,” said Collins. “I hope this shows all players that you can still have your life off the court and not have to hide anything. And still have your life on the court or on the field or on the ice, I guess, in hockey. That’s a credit to my teammates and the entire Nets organization from ownership to coaching to teammates to everyone.”
And although Collins says he’d prefer talking to the media about sports and not his role as a groundbreaking LGBT star, he says that he understands just how important his career is to the LGBT rights movement. “As an individual, as a person, as a human being, you have a lot of different hats that you wear,” he said. “[That’s] whether you’re an athlete or a human being trying to empower and help others. I’m trying to, again, empower and help others any way that I can.”
We applaud Collins for disregarding the taunts and for keeping his head in the game because in the end the world will be talking about his triumph as a player and a gay athlete, not the silly words of a “knucklehead” critic. – nicholas robinson