Collins’ big test will be joining an NBA team
“Just treat him normal,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “He’s a human being. It’s not like he has two heads or anything. He’s the same dude. You say `What’s up?’ like everything is normal.”
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a vocal advocate for gay rights, has said the first openly gay athlete likely won’t have as much to worry about with his teammates in his own locker room as he will with the media that will no doubt give him more attention than he’s ever seen.
“The media stuff would be tougher,” Kluwe said when speaking about the prospects of an openly gay football player. “At the end of the day, that would be a larger potential distraction as far as taking away your focus from football, because in the locker room you get to know guys. It would probably be uncomfortable for about a week or so as guys wrap their heads around it. At the end of the day we’re out there to play football and win games. If someone helps you win games, it doesn’t matter.”
Golden State Warriors President and COO Rick Welts, the highest-ranking executive in men’s professional team sports to publicly acknowledge he is gay, said he thinks there will be a place in the league for Collins.
“He absolutely will receive more opportunities,” Welts said. “A lot more doors will open for Jason than are going to close because of what he did (Monday).”
Welts has been out since 2011.
“I can’t think of single circumstance that has happened to me,” he said. “This team, this organization, this city, the whole community has really embraced me. The reason I did it is because hopefully it will make it easier for somebody who has gone through it and experienced it will come out.”
It’s one thing for players to support Collins now. It’s another when he joins them for training camp in October _ or when athletes in other sports also come out.
“There’s probably going to be teammates that don’t handle it right, and that’s what you have to worry about, too,” Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler said. “I don’t think you have to worry about Jason. You have to worry about other people handle it toward him. Jason’s already handled his part. I think his biggest problem was having to live in the closet. Everybody else has to live how to deal with it, to be flat-out honest.”
Even if teams decide that Collins cannot help them on the court any longer, Stackhouse suggested he deserves a spot anyway.
“Maybe he might not be the best fit for their basketball team but it’s a fit for where we need to go as a league,” Stackhouse said. “So if there’s ever a chance for the commissioner, who is leaving in February, to step in and maybe push a button, then I think that would be a good opportunity to do it.”
Kerr doesn’t think NBA Commissioner David Stern will have to step in.
“When the free-agent season starts to wind down and teams realize they’re going to need a big guy on the roster,” Kerr said, “I think Jason will get phone calls.”
AP Basketball Writers Brian Mahoney in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Tim Reynolds in Miami, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington, and AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez in Oakland, Calif., and Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.