The coming-out part is over.
Now Jason Collins needs a job.
Collins’ announcement that he was a gay athlete in a major sport won overwhelming support from other players, coaches and executives – even a phone call from the president. But it also came after the season ended for the 7-foot center and his Washington Wizards.
The 34-year-old journeyman becomes a free agent July 1 – meaning that he will first have to sign with an NBA team and wait until next season to see if teammates, coaches, opponents and fans will treat him any differently.
I think the real response will be once he gets a job, said Brooklyn Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who has called Collins a friend for years.
It’s not like he’s under contract next year and guaranteed to go back to a team. I think once that happens, then public opinion or whatever or players’ opinion will start to loom a little larger then. But right now we’ve got the summer to kind of digest what has happened, and I’m pulling for him.
Perhaps only when he starts seeing offers from teams will he get an idea of what coming out will mean for his career. He only played in 38 games last season – his 12th year in the NBA – with averages of 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 10.1 minutes for Boston and Washington.
He may not be an All-Star, but he has built a career by being a big, smart, physical player who can come off the bench and help defend some of the few remaining dominant centers in the league like the Lakers’ Dwight Howard, Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol of Memphis.
And 7-footers in basketball are like left-handed pitchers in baseball – hard to find and can hang around forever if they stay in shape.
His basketball skills were praised by President Obama at a White House news conference Tuesday, a day after he telephoned Collins to offer his support.
According to Obama, Collins was a role model who was unafraid to come out as gay and to say, I’m still 7-foot-tall and can bang with Shaq and, you know, deliver a hard foul.
Collins’ potential for future employment appears to be strong.
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 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).