SBD/October 24, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Execs Say Media Attention Around Jason Collins, Not His Sexuality, Why He Isn't Signed

One NBA team exec admitted that Collins is still good enough to play in the league
Several GMs said that the aversion to NBA teams signing free agent C Jason Collins "isn’t over concern about how his sexuality will play in the locker room, but over the relentless media attention it will generate," according to Ric Bucher of BLEACHER REPORT. One exec said, "If it were just an initial blast and you knew it would settle down after that, it would be one thing. But you know this is something that he and his teammates are going to be asked about everywhere they go, all season long, and all it takes is one guy to say something a little off and it could really blow up." Bucher noted Collins is unsigned "despite the paucity of big men willing to play defense and practice hard without knowing if they’ll get minutes or touch the ball when they do." The exec admitted Collins is "still good enough to play in the league" but added, "When you throw in the ongoing media frenzy, most teams are going to decide it’s just not worth it” (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 10/22). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the view of GMs "doesn't really surprise me," but noted he was surprised Collins is "not on a team." Kornheiser: "I thought that (NBA Commissioner) David Stern would move heaven and earth to make sure that [Collins] was on a team." He added, "What surprises me about this is that it makes it seem like it's discouraging to come out until your career is over, because he did this and everybody received it well and the NBA was proud of it and now he's not on a squad." ESPN's Michael Wilbon said there is that "historic moment" and then there is the "practicality of playing and running a basketball team, and I'm not surprised at this view being expressed at all." He said of basketball players, "People have individual personalities -- strong ones. They're bigger than the coach and they say what they're going to say. It's an issue" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/23).

WOULD IT BE THAT BIG A DEAL?
FS1’s Trevor Pryce said, “If it’s a Miami, where you have LeBron James and you have this really solid ownership group and solid core players, if it’s L.A. or these big metropolitan cities, this is a two-day thing. If it is Cleveland or Milwaukee or any of these small market teams, it will drag on for a while because there’s not much else to talk about." The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay said, “Anywhere he goes in the NBA this is, at maximum, a week or two long story." He added, "I also feel the kind of attention it might get is going to be incredibly positive. You're never going to get more good press.” FS1’s Michael Kosta: “GMs and owners are afraid of the unknown, but why look at the negative side when there could be a positive side?” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 10/23). CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman said, "If it was in the NFL or in baseball, I think I’d be more skeptical that people would buy in because I think the NBA is about as tolerant a place in sports, in a locker room, that you're going to get." However, he added the "publicity angle of it, you have to deal with every week, every day, when you get into a new city. He’s the novelty story” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 10/23).

GOOD FOR HIM, BUT NOT WORTH THE HEADACHE: SLATE's William Saletan wrote that line of reasoning is "what we hear every time an athlete challenges a social barrier." Saletan: "The team executives who shy away are good people. They believe in fairness and progress. They just don’t want the headache." He added, "If Collins’ on-court value is being weighed against social factors such as 'media attention,' teammates being 'asked about' him, and the risk that a controversy will 'blow up,' then that’s not just a basketball decision. That’s a decision to duck the perils of breaking a cultural barrier. It’s a decision to let other people’s discomfort with a certain kind of athlete dictate whether that athlete gets a job" (SLATE.com, 10/23).
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