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SBD/April 30, 2013/Sports in SocietyPrint All
Wizards C Jason Collins made his first TV appearance since announcing he is gay during this morning’s edition of ABC’s “GMA.” The show led with an interview between Collins and George Stephanopoulos, who said, “That announcement from Jason Collins, that surprise yesterday, just shattered stereotypes in the macho world of pro sports.” Stephanopoulos noted Collins is “making history with these simple words, ‘I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I’m gay,’ and all the emotions stirred up by his announcement were catching up with Collins when I sat down with him in Los Angeles.” Among excerpts from the interview:
Stephanopoulos: “You always knew you were gay?”
Collins: “Yeah, I sort of describe it as you know that the sky is blue but you keep telling yourself that it's red.”
Stephanopoulos: “So you fought it.”
Collins: “Yes, in the beginning … but when you finally get to that point of acceptance, there's nothing more beautiful than just allowing yourself to really be happy and be comfortable in your own skin.”
Stephanopoulos: “One of the things you write is that actually loyalty to your teammates is one of the things that held you back from making this announcement.”
Collins: “You don't want to be that distraction because for me it's always been about the team. But I know in my personal life I'm ready and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player. ... I never set out to be the first, and obviously you're sort of waiting around for somebody else to raise their hand. I'm ready to raise my hand but you know you still look around like, ‘Okay, come on guys.’ … I don't know of any other gay players in the NBA. … All the support has been overwhelming” ("GMA," ABC, 4/30).
THE STORY OF GETTING THE STORY: In N.Y., Christine Haughney looks at how SI produced the story. Three weeks ago, Collins' agent Arn Tellem called SI writer Franz Lidz and “offered him an exclusive story about how a major athlete was about to publicly announce that he was gay,” but did not give the name of the athlete. Editors for SI “noted that they knew they had to run the story as quickly as possible while also capturing the broadest audience.” Collins “said he did not want the publication of the story to coincide” with the Celtics’ first home game after the Boston Marathon bombings, which was last Friday. Editors decided to post the story on the magazine’s Web site at 11:00am ET yesterday “because it would not be too early” in L.A. for Collins “to take phone calls.” They also wanted “to post as close to lunchtime on Monday as possible because that is one of the busiest times for the site.” In the first two hours after the story was released, SI.com “received five million page views, which is more than double what it typically receives in that time period” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/30). SI’s Jon Wertheim said Collins making the announcement and talking in his “own voice” was “essential.” Wertheim said, "A story like this you didn’t want filtered through a journalist, even one working with the subject. He had a very strong idea of what he wanted to say, how he wanted to say it” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/29).
Wizards C Jason Collins' announcement on SI.com that he is gay, becoming the first active male athlete in one of the major U.S. pro sports to do so, was "greeted with an outpouring of support" from teammates, league execs and major NBA players including Heat G Dwyane Wade and Lakers G Kobe Bryant, according to a front-page piece by Beck & Branch of the N.Y. TIMES. NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "The overwhelming positive reaction does not surprise me. Our players are actually knowledgeable and sophisticated on this issue, and our teams understand it completely. I would have expected them to be supportive, and they are.” Beck & Branch report Collins informed his Wizards teammates, as well as Stern, in a "series of phone calls" yesterday before the story was published online. One NBA scout "estimated that Collins had a 25 percent chance of making an opening-night roster next season, based solely on his basketball skills." But one GM "predicted that Collins would be back in the league because of his reputation as a solid teammate and leader." The GM said that Collins’ "disclosure of his sexuality could even appeal to a forward-thinking owner" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/30). In St. Paul, Charley Walters notes Collins also had "been on the phone" with NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver yesterday morning (ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS, 4/30).
PLAYERS, COACHES REACT: In DC, Sheinin & Lee report Collins’ announcement "stunned people around the NBA, including his Wizards teammates." Several of them said that they "had no inclination Collins was gay." Wizards C Emeka Okafor: "My first reaction was I felt for him. ... Maybe more people will (come out) now. Maybe this will be the spark where other people feel comfortable." Sheinin & Lee write Collins may have been the "perfect athlete to break this barrier." As a "fringe player in his sport who is nearing the end of his career, he has little social capital -- in the way of commercial endorsements and job security -- to risk" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/30). Wizards G Bradley Beal said, "I can't speak for everybody, but I think as a team we'll be OK with it" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/30). Bulls G Kirk Hinrich, a former teammate of Collins, said, "It's really not significant to me. It doesn't really change what kind of person he is." Nets C Brook Lopez, who like Collins played in college at Stanford, said, "I admire his dignity as well as his courage to come out. I'll always have his back." In Chicago, Philip Hersh notes Collins is "without a contract" for next season. Outsports.com co-Founder Jim Buzinski said, "If he doesn't wind up on a team, people will think it's because nobody wants to touch the gay guy. I know the NBA will be rooting for a team to sign him, but I hope the NBA doesn't force some team to take him as a charity case" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/30).
WHAT IT MEANS FOR NBA: SPORTING NEWS' Sean Deveney wrote it was a "proud day" for Stern, who has "done his best over the previous decade to create an environment in his league that would be welcoming to Collins." Stern "deserves some credit for the environment that exists in the NBA, in which a gay player can receive widespread support" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/29). TNT's Charles Barkley said, "This was a great day for the NBA. We’ve always been at the forefront of civil rights. This was a great day.” He added, "I’m happy for Jason Collins. Nobody should have to hide" ("NBA Tip Off," TNT, 4/29). Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said reaction within the NBA is "reflective of society." Thibodeau: "The NBA has always been open-minded. I think it will continue to be so" (SI.com, 4/29). Lawrence Frank, who previously coached Collins, said, “I don’t think it will be as big a deal inside the NBA as it will be outside the league. People will underestimate how other NBA players will react. Guys understand this just doesn’t matter. Like Jason said, everyone in their family has a gay uncle, cousin, sibling. It doesn’t change anyone’s mind about Jason and it shouldn’t. If it does, then it’s your problem” (Bergen RECORD, 4/30).
WELCOME MESSAGE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the "prevailing opinion from Collins's peer group was almost exuberant in its message: Welcome." This "wasn't a firewall. This was a warm embrace. ... And sports will be better because of it" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/30). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes yesterday was "such a proud day for professional sports." The "common theme, other than love and support and courage and pride, was this: Be who you are." Sports was "ready for this. Sports can handle this" (NATIONAL POST, 4/30). In Newark, Steve Politi writes Collins was "wrapped in a worldwide hug after his announcement." The sports world was "ready to embrace" him (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/30). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes most people "seemed ... fine." Backlash was "nowhere to be seen. ... it just felt right" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/30). ESPN.com's Tim Keown wrote observers were "expecting a gasp, and in the end, we got a shrug." That is a "good thing" (ESPN.com, 4/29). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Will Leitch wrote Collins’ announcement had “no backlash,” and there was not “a single ‘respectable’ person doing anything other than being unequivocally supportive.” Leitch: “And that was about it. By 1 p.m., ESPN was back to Tim Tebow, and everyone on Twitter was back to self-promotion again. It was fantastic” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/29). Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban in an e-mail wrote, “Good for Jason. I hope this opens the door for other players to be honest about who they are” (ESPNDALLAS.com, 4/29). USA TODAY's Erik Brady in a front-page piece writes the announcement was "greeted with mostly positive public reaction from major political figures to major universities to major league clubhouses." Outsports.com co-Founder Cyd Zeigler said, "I don't know if it's going to be next week or next month or next year, but I do think there are going to be a lot more" (USA TODAY, 4/30).
BREAKING BARRIERS: President Obama at the end of his daily press briefing today addressed Collins' announcement and said, "It’s a great thing and America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly and everybody’s part of a family and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance and not their sexual orientation. I’m very proud of him” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 4/30). In Chicago, David Haugh writes this is the "most significant byline sports journalism will see in 2013." Haugh: "No headline will scream any louder or prouder about a monumental victory." Sports and society "celebrated Collins sharing his story like the great occasion it is" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/30). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes it is "nothing short of a watershed moment in the sweep of American history." Brennan: "Let us hope that there is an NBA team that wants him, not to make a social statement, but to sign a veteran big man with another season left in him" (USA TODAY, 4/30). CBS News’ Scott Pelley said Collins' announcement “may be a turning point for American sports.” CBS’ James Brown said this “is pretty significant” and the comparison to Jackie Robinson is a “fair one” (“Evening News,” CBS, 4/29). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes, "I don't think Jason Collins is Jackie Robinson. ... Yet maybe other humans, especially young, frightened souls, will be made to feel comfortable enough to express themselves and become whole." Male team sports "must clear this final barrier. And now is the time" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/30). Flyers scout Patrick Burke, who founded You Can Play, a group “advocating equality for athletes regardless of sexual orientation.” He said, "This is the first domino. The floodgates are about to open here" (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). In Newark, Craig Wolff cites sources as saying that since Collins’ announcement, there are "other athletes ... contemplating coming out -- if not within months, then weeks or even days." The sources “requested anonymity because they had been told this in confidence” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/30).
THE RIGHT GUY AT THE RIGHT TIME: SI's Jon Wertheim said of Collins, “In some ways, you couldn’t find a player who is better suited for this. He knows what’s coming, he understands the issues, he realizes the gravity of this" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 4/29). In Boston, Gerry Callahan writes the sports world has been "awaiting The Guy, the man who would be the first to come out of the closet and onto center stage." Yesterday "we finally met him, and at first blush, he is very impressive: smart, tough, 7 feet tall and seemingly prepared to meet the world with a smile" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/30). FOXSPORTS.com’s Bill Reiter: “This is a seminal moment not because what he did is easy or easily done but because it will absolutely be very hard and, in ways big and small, alienating” (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/29). The AP’s Jim Litke wrote Collins’ acceptance is “likely to be decided at the next level, by teammates who share the locker room and by fans who fill NBA arenas at home and on the road.” That is “where the rest of us come in” (AP, 4/29). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes Collins’ peers likely “will be accepting and understanding because they have no choice.” They have been “put on notice.” Yesterday marked a “good day for inclusion” (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/30). ESPN.com contributors in a roundtable discussion weighed in on whether the league will “show the same acceptance” under the header, “NBA Ready For An Openly Gay Player?” (ESPN.com, 4/29).
MAKING THINGS EASIER FOR WHOEVER'S NEXT: Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said he liked the way the "story came out, him writing the story, not rumors about a player and a player having to answer speculation.” Cowlishaw: “He said, ‘I’m happy to start the conversation,’ and that’s what he has done. He's made it that much easier for the second and the third guys who need to come out and live their lives” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/29). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes it will be "easier for the next guy, thanks to Jason Collins and his eloquent prose." That is his "gift to us" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/30). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes Collins' announcement will "prompt other male athletes in team sports to come out, knowing they will no longer be the first -- and seeing that Collins did not spontaneously combust into a loathed ball of flame when he decided to tell the truth." Collins is the "perfect guy to do this, to be in this position." He is "smart, and he is strong" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/30). In S.F., Ann Killion writes Collins is an "important figure." We have been "waiting for a male professional athlete to come out, to break that final, long-forbidden barrier, if for nothing else than to say that it can be done." So that "no one else has to be the first" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/30). CBS Sports Network’s Allie LaForce said, “Professional sports just needed one athlete to come out and do this. Now I think we’ll see the spiral effect, or at least I hope that we do" ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 4/29). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes Collins is a "smart, mature, strong man," and he is "OK with being the pioneer" (K.C. STAR, 4/30). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes the "lateness of male pro leagues on this subject is striking; women have been coming out for 30 years." One of the reasons Collins decided to "make his announcement was that he wanted to declaw the outers" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/30).
TRUE TEST COMES WITH STAR PLAYER: In DC, Thom Loverro writes Collins' moment "shouldn't be diminished," as it "moves the ball down the field toward the goal line." But the "true test will come when a prominent player -- not a star, but a starting player in the middle of his career -- makes the same declaration when he will be in locker rooms and playing fields and courts for years to come." Collins "made it easier for that moment to come" (WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 4/30). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes the announcement means "that one day, an athlete in the prime of his professional career, maybe even a star athlete, will be able to live his life out in the open, not in the closet" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/30). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel writes the "next step will be a superstar coming out." And then, the "next step after that is a pro team that will draft a college player who is already out of the closet." Or a pro team "that will sign a gay free agent" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/30). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes Collins' "revelation chips away at a few bricks." But it will "take time. Probably more time than it should" (N.Y. POST, 4/30). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey wrote Collins' announcement, "as significant as it was, was still a cautious one." Harvey: "So when is a younger player ready to take this on?" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 4/29).
SHIFT IN PUBLIC OPINION: In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd writes Collins has "given us a defining moment in sports," one that "was a long time coming" (Baltimore SUN, 4/30). In Detroit, Vince Ellis writes, "Real progress will come when no one cares" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/30). In Philadelphia, Marcus Hayes writes the announcement was "less incredible than inevitable." But "such is the reality of enlightenment" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/30). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote under the header, "Reaction To Jason Collins Shows How Far Public Opinion Has Shifted" (SI.com, 4/29). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Collins "doesn't seem to be trying to advance any agenda here, except coming to grips with taking control of his own life." The "strange thing is that by today's media spin cycle, Collins' first-person story could quickly be dispersed, digested and almost discarded by week's end without any discernible resolution." Hoffarth: "Is this really more creating another branch that feeds into a larger river of conversation?" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/30). In Miami, Greg Cote writes the reaction to Collins' announcement "suggests to us that for every drunken boor who might call out a homophobic slur ... another thousand voices will be cheering for Collins" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/30).
WHAT'S NEXT? A BOSTON HERALD editorial states Collins "now becomes a role model for kids struggling with their sexuality and a marketer's dream." The "only remaining question is can he shoot?" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/30). A NEWSDAY editorial states one of the "biggest questions will be: 'Does this matter?'" It "matters very much" (NEWSDAY, 4/30).
Wizards C Jason Collins is due to become a free agent this summer, and six out of 14 NBA teams surveyed said that they expect to see Collins “in the NBA next season in the wake of his revelation Monday that he is gay,” according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The other eight teams surveyed by Stein that “expressed some measure of doubt all cited Collins' age and corresponding questions about his ability to make a productive on-court contribution as the overriding reason he wouldn't be able to find a job.” The 34-year-old Collins played in 38 games for the Celtics and Wizards this past season (ESPN.com, 4/29). ESPN's J.A. Adande said Collins' announcement "puts teams in a little bit of a dilemma now." Adande: "Do they sign him as a free agent and bring this additional ... part of the story that complicates things beyond just signing a player? Do they sign him specifically because they want to avoid the appearance that they’re unwilling to sign him because he is an openly gay athlete?” ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said NBA Commissioner David Stern “will have no tolerance for anybody that can’t handle it." MacMullan: "David has been way ahead of the curve on all sorts of issues like this, and believe me, if Jason Collins plays in the NBA next year, he will be protected by the league" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 4/29). Stern said, "If he can help, he'll be signed. If it’s viewed that he can't, then he won't be. But it will not be on this issue for sure” ("Pacers-Hawks," NBA TV, 4/29).
OPPORTUNITY FOR LEAGUE: SI.com’s Jon Wertheim noted Collins “expresses plenty of trepidation about what comes next” for his career when he was decided to publically come out. He “wonders if this new status will affect his marketability” to a team. Collins said, “At the end of the day I don’t know what’s going to happen after I open this door” (SI.com, 4/29). In a special to SI, Collins' agent Arn Tellem wrote, “Do I think a team will sign the aging, but still formidable Jason? I certainly hope so.” Tellem: “I expect Jason to show the rest of us the right way to deal with prejudice” (SI.com, 4/29). Nets G and NBPA VP Jerry Stackhouse said of Collins playing next season, “It might not be the best fit for their basketball team, but it’s a fit for where we need to go as a league. So if there’s ever a chance for the commissioner who’s leaving in February to step in and maybe push a button, I think that would be a good opportunity to do it” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/30). Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said, "He may or may not be a valuable asset for another year or two." Ainge: "I really think he’ll be judged on his play” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/30). ESPN L.A.’s Ramona Shelburne wrote, “If anything I think there are going to be several teams that would make a point of bringing him in as a show of support.” ESPN's Stein wrote Collins “will resurface next season for sure and quite possibly with the Wizards again” (ESPNLA.com, 4/29).
A PREMATURE END? ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, “I do worry and wonder whether this man, as a free agent, just ended his career. I wonder if a team is going to be willing ... to take a chance and make him the bigger deal by making him an active basketball player” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 4/29). In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes Collins “probably would have had a tough time landing a contract offer even before coming out,” and if recent history is an indication, his "admission won’t make that road any smoother.” It is “not known how fans will react should he return to the court” (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). In N.Y., Nate Silver wrote if Collins is not signed, that may “incorrectly be deemed as a referendum on whether the league is willing to employ an openly gay player -- when players in Mr. Collins’s position see their NBA careers end fairly often for all sorts of reasons.” As a “pure basketball decision, it looks like a pretty close call” (NYTIMES.com, 4/29).
COLLINS' NEED TO PLAY: ESPN's LZ Granderson said the “key point” to Collins' story is that he "needs to be re-signed." Whether a team will sign him "is the story, because then you have an openly gay player in the locker room. As of right now, he could very well be just another openly gay player who comes out in retirement" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 4/29). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote an NBA team “needs to sign” Collins “for this announcement to make the type of impact it merits” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/29). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes for this "story to work ... someone has to offer” Collins a contract. Some team “at least has to bring him to camp next year” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/30). N.Y. Times columnist William Rhoden: "He has got to be playing somewhere next year." He added the odds of Collins finding a team is “great because all of a sudden now it’s become a political thing" (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 4/30). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Shaun Powell wrote, “Someone will give him another chance. He comes cheap, he’s low maintenance and in spots, he can help. There will be a place for him” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/29). In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes the NBA is “under the microscope now, or once again, this time as a test case in how a major sports league responds to an active player declaring he is gay.” Collins’ “career clock now becomes trickier to read,” in part reflecting “how ready the NBA and by extension the mainstream sports culture really is for an openly gay male in its locker rooms” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/30). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes he believes Stern “will quietly help this job-hunting process along if necessary.” Fowler: "If nothing else, the NBA could create a position and hire Collins for its league office" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/30).
The NBA is probably the "best equipped of the major sports leagues to handle" the announcement that an active player is gay, as it has been an "open-minded league in many ways as far as accepting people with differences," according to SI's Lee Jenkins. There has been "pretty much universal support" among league personnel to Wizards C Jason Collins announcing he is gay. Jenkins said he is not sure the same atmosphere has been created in other sports, "specifically the NFL, but even Major League Baseball." Jenkins: "Those sports, the leagues, they're not as into letting players show their personalities. Freedom of identity and expression isn’t quite the same as it is in the NBA.” The NBA is the "kind of arena that might allow a person or make a person feel okay about coming forward” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 4/29). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, "If you had to choose a league that might address it the best, it would be the NBA. The league has been ahead in a number of areas” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/29). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said of the NBA, "This is a league where they have minority ownership, they have female referees, black executives and black head coaches. So to me, you talk about the NBA and tolerance, they’ve been at the forefront of really being a diverse league” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 4/29). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said it is “probably a good thing that it happened in professional basketball as opposed to certain other locker rooms." Wilbon: "I’m going to specifically say professional football and baseball, where the culture of the locker rooms are different. ... They are less tolerant than professional basketball.” Wilbon said he expects "more people coming out now" after Collins' announcement, and he hopes there is "not that much backlash” ("PTI," ESPN, 4/29).
IS MLB READY? In N.Y., Andy Martino wondered if MLB is “ready for what just happened in the NBA.” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “Anytime it happens for the first time it's a little bit of a shock. But I believe baseball would handle it well.” Martino wrote there are “progressive folks working at all levels of MLB, people who would accept with all their hearts a gay player.” But Martino wrote, “Extensive time in clubhouses has demonstrated to me that anti-gay sentiment, both sneering and casual, still pervades.” MLB once “led the country on race, but there are many reasons to believe it will lag behind basketball and other sports on the defining civil rights issue of this moment” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 4/29). MLB.com’s Adam Berry wrote the response from most of MLB is ready for an openly gay player “was a resounding yes.” Brewers LF Ryan Braun: “It's definitely a step in a positive direction I think for all athletes, and hopefully for society in general." Cardinals GM John Mozeliak: “I would assume that day's coming in baseball." Royals RF Jeff Francoeur: "I absolutely think he'd be accepted" (MLB.com, 4/29). Mets 3B David Wright said, “If you can play the game, come on in. You’re welcome.” (NJ.com, 4/29). Angels DH Mark Trumbo: “It's nice to see people rallying around him." Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked if he believes MLB is “ready to accept an openly gay player.” Scioscia said, "It's not an issue. Not an issue" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/30). Cubs 2B Darwin Barney: “I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal. I think he’ll be protected just fine” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/30).
WHAT ABOUT NFL? ESPN’s Darren Woodson, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons, said having gay teammates is "accepted in the locker room ... and I just don’t see a problem with it in this day and age.” The NFL prior to Collins’ announcement yesterday distributed a document to teams reiterating its anti-discrimination policy on sexual orientation, and Woodson said, "That’s smart. The league is trying to protect itself and it’s doing it the right way and it’s about education. ... The league has to get out and be proactive because the world is changing” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 4/29). However, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the “big concern among NFL teams” is the “distraction” that would ensue if an NFL player announced he is gay (“PFT,” NBC Sports Network, 4/29).
ROAD BACK FOR ROGERS? Former U.S. national soccer team MF Robbie Rogers announced he is gay in February and said as a “professional athlete especially, you try to live up to the stereotype of this macho athlete.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, “There’s obviously a lot of people who would like to see you continue on in soccer ... for the message that it would send.” Rogers said he does “feel pressure” to play. But if he goes back to playing, “I want to go back as a soccer player, I don’t want to go back as the gay soccer player” (“Anderson Cooper 360,” CNN, 4/29).
Warriors President & COO Rick Welts nearly got “into $200 worth of trouble” when he was called “to give him a heads-up” about Wizards C Jason Collins’ pending announcement he was coming out as gay, according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. Welts, who two years ago publically revealed he was gay, was “driving, and not using a hands-free device that California law dictates,” and was pulled over. But Welts said that he was “let out of the costly ticket after telling his story to the California Highway Patrol officer.” Welts afterward said, "Thanks, Jason." Meanwhile, Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis yesterday talked with Collins. Leonsis said he told him, "We are proud of you and I support you in every way possible" (AP, 4/29). Welts said, "I think we are marching toward an inevitability here. It's happening very fast and unfolding around us as we speak." He added, "A lot more doors will open than close for Jason. I think he'll be very smart about it. That Stanford degree will come in handy" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/30). More Welts: “I’m very happy for him. He’s going to be able to be the complete Jason Collins every day for the rest of his life. I think he probably knows what he signed up for. He’s going to face a whole bunch more television cameras and reporters than he probably has over the course of the last couple seasons. But clearly, it’s somebody who’s given this a lot of thought.” Welts said of the issue in men’s pro sports, “We’re lagging behind where our society is on this issue. To some degree, we caught up a little bit today” (USA TODAY, 4/30).