Press-Republican

Tuesday

May 7, 2013

Gay and in the NBA

PLATTSBURGH — NBA veteran Jason Collin’s cyber coming out was a blindside screen that many, including Luke Cyphers, didn’t anticipate.

“There are rumors there are a lot of NFL players ready to come out at any moment,” said Cyphers, a SUNY Plattsburgh journalism professor and longtime-sports writer for ESPN The Magazine and the New York Daily News.

“Jason Collins was really bit of a surprise. It’s a pretty fascinating development.”

STRONG SUPPORT

It’s not every day that an active professional athlete proclaims: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And, I’m gay,” as Collin’s did in a recent exclusive Sports Illustrated article, “Why NBA Center Jason Collins is coming out now,” penned with Franz Lidz.

Since then, Collins has received many calls from well-wishers, including Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

There have also been contrasting reactions, including from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Its ideology focuses on abhorrence of homosexuality, and it has sent contingents to Plattsburgh in the past, once to protest openly gay Dan Stewart, who was mayor then.

The church mounted protests at NBA games following Collins’s announcement.

GAME CHANGER

Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran and, presently, a free agent, played for the New Jersey Nets (2001-2008), Memphis Grizzlies (2008), Minnesota Timberwolves (2008-2009), Atlanta Hawks (2009-2012) and Boston Celtics (2012-2013).

He joined the the Washington Wizards in February.

Some see Collins’s decision to go public as a game changer on the level of Jackie Robinson, who broke professional baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1946, with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Cyphers doesn’t see it quite that way.

“Partly,” he said, “because there’s no guarantee that Collins will even play next year because his contract is up.

“He’s a free agent, and he’s at the end of his career. Nonetheless, he’s technically an active player. If he does catch on with a team next year, it will be something we haven’t seen before in male team sports.”

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