Jason Collins is a 13 year veteran of the NBA and a former member of the Boston Celtics. He is also the first openly gay player in a major North American sports league. Collins met with the press yesterday morning prior to his game last night (with the Brooklyn Nets) versus the Celtics
Jason, at the time you were playing for the Celtics Boston Spirit magazine published an interview that we conducted with Doc Rivers. In the interview Doc discussed the topic of gay players in the NBA and in professional sports in general. Did you see the article and, if so, what was your reaction?
Yes, I did see the article. It was a great article. It just showed the character of Doc Rivers. He mentioned that it (a player coming out) would be a story, but then over time the focus would go back to being on the basketball which is what we’re starting to see now.
Did you ever speak to John Amaechi (former NBA player who came out after his career ended) prior to your announcement?
I spoke to John Amaechi at the end of the (2012-2013) regular season before I came out. He is like a mentor because he has been down this road and I wanted to reach out to him, my brother was also his teammate in Utah. I was able to reach out to him, ask him questions about his journey and learn from that.
How has this (press conferences) changed over the past few weeks now that you have conducted so many. Are you hearing the same questions over and over again?
Pretty much the same questions, every now then I will get a political question. Mainly it’s the size (of the group of reporters) that has changed. Now it’s 10 (reporters) when this all started it was probably 40, so size is going down but regardless, you guys have a job to do in the media and as a player I try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.
Last year (with the Celtics) obviously you were dealing with this decision but your teammates had no idea that it was happening, what was that like?
Most of my friends and family knew (last season). That’s just a credit to the people I have in my life that I could share everything with them and it did not become public. A lot of people in my life were very protective of me and, at the same time, I am glad I had that outlet in my life and I was able to be myself with my friends and family and I decided last year that I was ready to be myself with everybody else.
Did you ever consider coming out when you were here (with the Celtics)?
No, not when I was with the Celtics. I picked my jersey number for that reason (Collins wears number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was killed in 1998 in a hate crime), so that every time I put the jersey on I would always be reminded and it would be a tribute to myself and the LGBT community…a silent tribute.
You have mentioned that you have received a lot of support since your announcement. Without necessarily naming names, have you heard anything on the court or from any other players that has not been as supportive?
No, it’s been 100% supportive. Everyone’s been great. It’s kind of funny now, this is my thirteenth year and when I come out for warm-ups I am friends with more of the assistant coaches than I am with the players because I have been playing so long.
Has that been a surprise to you?
I think the NBA as a whole, it’s a brotherhood, like a family. We’re all very supportive of each other.
It looks like we might have an openly gay football player in the NFL this year, do you think baseball and hockey are far behind?
I hope that all players feel comfortable to be there true self.
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