At 3:24 p.m. ET, on Sunday, another wall came tumbling down in the world of sports. Jason Collins, the first male professional athlete to come out of the closet last April, became the first openly gay basketball player when he signed to play with the Brooklyn Nets in time for a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 23, 2014
If you want to break barriers, doing it for a Brooklyn team is the way to do it. Sixty-seven years before Collins busted down the closet door in basketball (and professional sports) by suiting up for the Brooklyn Nets, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
“Jason Collins tore open the last remaining closet in America, and became the first openly gay player to be signed by a team in one of the big four sports,” Brian Ellner, founding board member of Athlete Ally, said yesterday. “We are especially excited that Jason will be playing in Brooklyn, just like Jackie Robinson. And in a marriage equality state. This is a piece of history, an important point on the continuum toward justice and a moment to celebrate.”
“Right now, I’m focused on trying to learn the plays, the game-plan assignment,” Collins said at a pre-game press conference. “I don’t have time to really think about history right now.” Collins’s contract is just for 10 days. But I hope he shows the Nets and the nation that he is worthy of the uniform and has earned his right to play.
Oh, by the way, the Nets beat the Lakers, 108 to 102.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj