SBD/April 30, 2013/Sports in Society

Collins Has Good Shot At Making NBA Roster; Age, Productivity Of Most Concern

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).
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