Jason Collins, who made news when he became the first openly gay man playing a major American team sport, implied that the reason he has not been signed by any NBA teams might have to do with the fact that he announced he was gay.
When asked whether he thought he hadn’t been signed because of discrimination, he replied, “You don’t want to speculate. I don’t go there,” but then added that he couldn’t understand it because, “I feel there are players in the league right now that, quite frankly, I’m better than.”
And he knows he has those willing to do battle for him; he asserted, “I do have that feeling now that I’m not alone in this and I have that mindset, you know, of bring it on.”
The disinclination to sign Collins couldn’t be the fact that his career statistics are abysmal, (3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds a game) or that the minimum salary for a player with 12 years experience is almost $1.4 million, and younger players could be paid at least one-third less, could it?
No, it couldn’t be that.
Collins himself said teams shouldn’t base their decisions on money, claiming, “In my mind it shouldn’t be about that. N.B.A. is for the best players, not for the most affordable players. There isn’t a professional athlete that doesn’t want to play 12, 13 years. What I did when I was younger was look up to the guys like Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning who played over a decade. What did they do to last that long? A lot of it is keeping your body in shape, keeping your mind sharp, staying hungry. You should always want guys around like that to set that example, in my mind.”
Richard Lapchick, a human-rights activist and sports industry watchdog, pontificated after Collins’s announcement that he was gay, “I do think it’s important for him to be in the league as a visible symbol. If he makes this courageous stand but then disappears from the locker room, it would not do it justice.” But now Lapchick says, “In all my work on hiring practices, I always argue to bring a diverse pool into the interview process and then hire the best person. I am rooting hard for Jason to play this year, but I want him to make it on his own, for his sake and for the sake of the issue.”Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, who advocates for gay athletes, asserted, “The decision to sign him rests with individual team owners. One of them has to step up.”