Hollywood Trash

NBA Star Jason Collins Has Come Out of the Closet


It begins.  NBA center JASON COLLINS has come out of the closet.  He's the first ACTIVE athlete to do it in one of the four big North American sports leagues:  The NBA, the NFL, the MLB and the NHL.  Jason is 34 years old.  He's spent 12 years in the NBA since being drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 2001.  He's played for six teams.  He opened this past season with the Boston Celtics, before being traded to the Washington Wizards.

Jason announced his coming out in a first-person article for the May 6th issue of "Sports Illustrated".  Here are the highlights from his story:

1.  He says, "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport.  But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation.  I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.'  If I had my way, someone else would have already done this.  Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

2.  Jason spends a large portion of the article talking about why he's coming out now.  But one specific moment stuck out for him.  He says, "I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade.  I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy.  I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator.  If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths.  What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride.  I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore.  I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding.  I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.'"

3.  That realization came in the last year, but he wanted to wait until he was a free agent to come out.  He explains, "Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn't come out sooner.   When I signed a free-agent contract with Boston last July, I decided to commit myself to the Celtics and not let my personal life become a distraction.  My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards.  The number has great significance to the gay community.  One of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes occurred in 1998.  Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence.  He died five days after he was finally found, when I put on my jersey, I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends."

4.  Jason says some members of his family already knew he was gay when he came out to them, but his twin brother JARRON COLLINS did NOT see it coming.  (Jarron also played in the NBA, for 10 seasons.)  Jason says, "I didn't come out to my brother until last summer, he was downright astounded.  He never suspected.  So much for twin telepathy, but he was full of brotherly love."

5.  He also downplays the "locker room showers" thing.  He says, "I've been asked how other players will respond to my announcement.  The simple answer is, I have no idea.  I'm a pragmatist.  I hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room.  Believe me, I've taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons.  My behavior wasn't an issue before, and it won't be one now.  My conduct won't change.  I still abide by the adage, 'What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.'  I'm still a model of discretion."

6.  Although he didn't really want the "spotlight" of being the first gay player, he's ready to face whatever comes with it, to be a role model.  He says, "As far as the reaction of fans, I don't mind if they heckle me.  I've been booed before.  There have been times when I've wanted to boo myself.  But a lot of ill feelings can be cured by winning.  I'm a veteran, and I've earned the right to be heard.  I'll lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones.  I'm not the loudest person in the room, but I'll speak up when something isn't right.  And try to make everyone laugh.

7.  He adds,  "Some people insist they've never met a gay person, but no NBA player can claim that anymore.  Pro basketball is a family.  And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who's gay.  In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who's out."

(You can read Jason's full article at SportsIllustrated.com.)


NBA Players Are Overwhelmingly Supporting Jason Collins on Twitter

Obviously, the biggest question about JASON COLLINS coming out is:  How will the rest of the NBA react?  Now, and down the road, as he signs with a new team, and has new teammates.

Well, the FIRST part is being answered.  Since Jason's announcement hit the Internet, current and former NBA players have SHOWERED HIM WITH LOVE . . . pun intended . . . on Twitter.  Here are some highlights:

KOBE BRYANT:  "Proud of Jason Collins.  Don't suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others."

DWYANE WADE:  "Jason Collins showed a lot of courage today, and I respect him for taking a stand and choosing to live in his truth.  #NBAFamily."

STEVE NASH:  "The time has come.  Maximum respect."

JASON KIDD:  "Jason's sexuality doesn't change the fact that he's a great friend and was a great teammate."  (Kidd and Collins shared a locker room as teammates on the New Jersey Nets for seven years.)

KEVIN DURANT:  "As NBA players, this is like a big group of guys, that's like a brotherhood.  I support him."

METTA WORLD PEACE:  "I've got gay friends, gay people who work for me.  It's not like anything out of the norm."

PAU GASOL:  "It's amazing to see such courage from Jason Collins . . . myself and the NBA family supports you, Jason!"

SHANE BATTIER:  "I only want one thing out of my teammate:  A commitment to winning.  Whether he is straight, gay, black, white, from Earth, or from Mars is immaterial.  Just help us win."

JOE SMITH:  "It takes courage to make a statement like Jason Collins.  Played with him in Atlanta, and wish him the best.  Yessir."

KEVIN LOVE:  "Happy for Jason Collins in his decision.  A great teammate and friend.  Thanks for helping me through my rookie season!!  #ClassAct #Courage." (Jason played with him on the Minnesota Timberwolves, where Kevin still plays.)

TONY PARKER:  "Really hope people RESPECT Jason Collins for his decision to come out.  Just glad he can now relax and not be afraid to be who he is."

BRUCE BOWEN:  "Really hope people RESPECT Jason Collins for his decision to come out.  Just glad he can now relax and not be afraid to be who he is."  (Yeah, he Tweeted the EXACT same thing that Tony Parker did.  Hmm.  PR firm?)

BRADLEY BEAL:  "Proud of Jason Collins for expressing his feelings!  Great teammate, mentor and better person!!  #LiveYourLife!" !"  (Bradley was one of guys Jason got to see naked in the Washington Wizards locker room this season.)


ZAZA PACHULIA:  "Jason is one of the best teammates that I've ever had.  He was a great presence in the locker room and an even better person.  #NBAFamily." (Zaza experienced Jason's great locker room presence on the Atlanta Hawks.)

DAMIEN WILKINS:  "Very proud of and happy for one of the coolest and most down to Earth guys I know:  Jason Collins.  #FWhatPPLThink."  (Damien and Jason briefly shared a locker room in Atlanta, while playing together for the Hawks.)

RUDY GAY, the only other known "Gay" in the NBA:  Quote, "Happy for my former teammate.  A true American.  'Home of the free, because of the brave.'"  (Rudy and Jason played together briefly on the Memphis Grizzlies.)

ROYCE WHITE:  "As a firm supporter of the LGBT, of course I support and applaud Jason Collins' brave decision.  Facing stigma head on, thank you.  #BeWell."

MAGIC JOHNSON, who recently supported the coming out of his son:  "I know Jason and his family well, and I support him 100%."

KENNETH FARIED, the Denver Nuggets star who recently revealed that he has lesbian moms:  "Wow this is amazing, all smiles, so SO happy Jason Collins came out and announced he was openly gay.  ALL SUPPORT OVER HERE.  #AthleteAlly #LGBT."

MANU GINOBILI:  "All my respect and support to Jason.  Thanks to his courage, perhaps someday an athlete's sexual preference will be irrelevant.  Congrats."

NICK VAN EXEL:  "Shout out to my boy, Jason Collins.  Stay strong and be blessed.  Still going to whoop you on the golf course.  LOL."

ROBIN LOPEZ:  "Looked up to Jason Collins growin' up in L.A., [and he's] been the best role model from grade school to the NBA.  Blessed to know him."

BARON DAVIS:  "I'm so proud of my bro Jason Collins for being real.  #FTheHaters."

TREVOR ARIZA:  "Jason, much respect to you.  It takes a strong dude to be the first.  You're a hell of a professional, and a hell of a teammate."  (Trevor was one of guys Jason played with on the Washington Wizards this season.)

Meanwhile, ANTAWN JAMISON told the paparazzi that HE supports Jason, and would be comfortable being his teammate . . . but he does say there ARE going to be some "close-minded" players who WON'T accept him.  (Here's video.)

Jason had this to say in response:  He Tweeted, "All the support I have received today is truly inspirational.  I knew that I was choosing the road less traveled but I'm not walking it alone.  Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me through email, texts, calls, tweets, letters, and every other form of communication.  #Support."

Celebrities React to Jason Collins Coming Out

If JASON COLLINS was worried whether or not HOLLYWOOD would accept an openly gay NBA player, it appears that the answer is YES.   Here are a few reactions from celebrities on Twitter:

ELLEN DEGENERES:  "I'm overwhelmed by your bravery, Jason, and sending so much love."

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS:  "Bravo, Jason Collins.  Thanks for stepping up.  For standing tall.  And at 7 feet, that's saying a lot."

DANE COOK:  "A heartfelt congrats to all of major league sports first openly gay athlete, Jason Collins, for 'coming out of the locker room.'"  (I think that's a joke?)

MICHAEL STRAHAN:  "So proud of Jason Collins for having the courage to stand up and out for who he is.  I support, respect and salute you!!"

RUSSELL SIMMONS:  "Proud of Jason Collins for coming out.  We will stand with you as you continue on your journey."

THE ROCK:  "Being real and authentic is very powerful.  Well done Jason Collins for having the courage to take a monumental step forward."

CHELSEA CLINTON, who knew Jason from their time at Stanford:  "Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength and courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA."

BILL CLINTON:  "I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend."

(You can find more, here . . . here . . . and here.)



It Isn't All Love: The Haters Include NFL Wide Receiver Mike Wallace and ESPN Analyst Chris Broussard

With all the love out there for gay NBA star JASON COLLINS, surely there was going to be some hate too, or at least, some UNSUPPORTIVE comments.  Here are a few of those:

NFL wide receiver MIKE WALLACE, who just signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier this year Tweeted, "All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys?  SMH [shaking my head]."  Less than an hour later, Mike deleted that tweet, and replaced it with this "explanation":  "Never said anything was right or wrong, I just said I don't understand!!  Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended."

The Dolphins responded with this statement:  "Mike's comments do not reflect the views of the Miami Dolphins.  We believe in a culture of inclusiveness and respect, and any statements to the contrary are in no way acceptable to our organization.  We will address the entire team about our policy of inclusion and make sure they all understand the importance of respecting individual choices."

For what it's worth, the Associated Press reports that the NFL sent out a memo to teams to REMIND them of their "anti-discrimination policy on sexual orientation."  (You can read more about that, here.)

Meanwhile, ESPN analyst CHRIS BROUSSARD blasted Jason's coming out in an episode of "Outside the Lines" yesterday.  He said, "If you're openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that that's a sin.  If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, I believe that's walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ."  Chris compared homosexuality to premarital sex and adultery.  (So we can look forward to hearing him freak out if an NBA player ever decides to engage in sexual activity before marriage.) 

In Jason's article, he said, "My parents instilled Christian values in me.  They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand.  I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding."

(Here's video of Chris Broussard's comments.  By the way, ESPN later apologized that Chris' comments, "became a distraction."  You can read more about that, here.)




The Clear Winner of the Oddest Reaction to Jason Collins' Coming Out: Metta World Peace

METTA WORLD PEACE is cool with JASON COLLINS' sexual orientation.  He Tweeted, "I've got gay friends, gay people who work for me.  It's not like anything out of the norm."  But that's not the weird part.  At his press conference yesterday, Metta showed up in a bright blue Cookie Monster shirt, and when he was asked about Jason's announcement, he said this:

"Whether it's a free country or not, you should be free to act as you want to do as long as it's not violent.  No matter what it is.  I came here in a Cookie Monster shirt because I wanted to.  And I was going to wear the pants.  But I thought you guys were going to judge me.  I was going to wear the hat too.  But I thought you guys would judge me, so that's why I didn't wear the hats and the pants.  But I should've wore it.  You should be free to do and act how you want to act."    (Here's a picture of Metta in his Cookie Monster shirt.)  (Deadspin)