SBD/April 30, 2013/Sports in Society

Collins Details Reasons For Coming Out, Says Country "Ready" For Gay Basketball Player

Collins told "GMA" he isn't aware of any other gay players in the NBA
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).
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