SBD/February 24, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Silver Says First Openly Gay NBA Player "Long Overdue" After Jason Collins Signs With Nets

Collins says he expects the media's intense interest to die down soon
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver yesterday was "understandably excited and proud" when Jason Collins became the first active openly gay athlete in the four major U.S. pro sports leagues by signing a 10-day contract with the Nets, but he noted that it is "disappointing it took this long for this moment to finally happen in the sports world," according to Tim Bontemps of the N.Y. POST. Silver said, "I have mixed feelings, because I’m enormously proud that the first openly gay player is playing in the NBA. On the other hand, this is so long overdue that I don’t think this should necessarily be on the list of the greatest accomplishments of the NBA." He added, "This is an area where no one in sports should be too proud. Sports has led society in so many critical areas … this is one where we fell behind." Silver said of Collins, "I was disappointed that he wasn’t on a roster at the opening of this season, but I was satisfied after talking to [Collins’ agent] Arn Tellem and talking to several GMs that teams were making a basketball decision, and the fact he wasn’t on a roster at the beginning of this year wasn’t related to his sexuality." While Silver said that he "looks forward to the day when it’s no longer news for a team to sign an openly gay player, he understands" why Collins' signing was "such a big deal." Silver: "It is a big deal for this league, and hopefully, in the way that sports can uniquely impact society, that this is an area where, for the next Michael Sam, they feel that much more comfortable coming out" (N.Y. POST, 2/24). Silver said he is "happy for Jason to have found a fit" with the Nets. But he added, "I'm cautious about celebrating it too much because where sports has led in so many ways, this is one of the places where we've trailed. This should have happened long ago" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24).

TALK OF THE TOWN: YAHOO SPORTS' Marc Spears writes perhaps the "toughest challenge" of Collins' first day back in the NBA was "dealing with the media." Local, national and international media prior to last night's Nets-Lakers game "filled an interview room to capacity." One Nets beat writer said that the "media horde reminded him of a press conference" for suspended Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez. Collins "figures the media fascination will die down quick." Collins: "It's not going to be like this every single day. The news cycle that we have, this story, there are only so many questions (the media) can ask" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/24). In L.A., Ben Bolch writes there was "a minor media frenzy for the game." A Lakers spokesperson said that the team "issued 40 to 50 extra credentials" (L.A. TIMES, 2/24).

HISTORIC OCCASION: In N.Y., Andrew Keh writes Collins' signing "represents a significant step toward transforming North American professional sports into a more welcoming environment for gay athletes." Collins playing last night "represented a milestone in the effort to change a sports culture that some feel has lagged far behind society at large in acceptance of gay people" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes Collins playing for the Nets "is a big deal." Gay: "Don't let anyone pooh-pooh its big deal-ness" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/24). USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes, "In this world of men's professional sports that has been so behind the times on this issue, this was nothing short of momentous. And Brooklyn's part in it -- both as a team and as a city -- can't be overstated" (USA TODAY, 2/24). In Illinois, Mike Imrem writes, "Much was made the past two weeks of anti-gay legislation being passed recently in Russia. The irony? Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov owns the Nets" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/24).

A STEP TOWARD IT BEING NO BIG DEAL: On Long Island, Roderick Boone writes Collins' signing "evoked positive emotions" from Warriors President & COO Rick Welts, who announced he is gay three years ago. However, Welts "can't wait for the day when there's no hoopla surrounding a gay male athlete." He said, "It's a big step toward being regarded as totally unremarkable, which is exactly what it should be and what I would wish for. It's a big deal ... But really it's a big step toward nobody caring, you know?" (NEWSDAY, 2/24). Boone said, “At some point, something like this will kind of be old hat. People won’t even make a big deal about it" (“NBA Gametime,” NBA TV, 2/23). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "Someday this will all happen in sports without gay athletes having to make announcements, or tacitly asking for our approval. Someday gay athletes will be able to go about their business in America without coming out of the closet, and feeling obligated ... to slam the door behind them" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/24). SI.com's Chris Mannix wrote, "Someday, we will look back and wonder what the big deal was" (SI.com, 2/23). Also in N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes under the header, "Collins' Deal Noteworthy, But One Day It Won't Be" (N.Y. POST, 2/24). In Chicago, Rick Telander writes under the header, "A Basketball Decision -- That's All The Jason Collins Signing Should Be" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/24).
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