Basketball player Jason Collins, who came out in April 2013, has signed with the Brooklyn Nets, giving him his first opportunity to become an active NBA player since coming out.
By signing a ten-day contract with the Nets on Sunday, Collins became the first openly gay player to compete in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues.
When he came out last year, the 35-year-old center was a free agent and remained unsigned until Sunday.
Cementing himself and the Nets in sports history, Collins played just over ten minutes in the second quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a statement, Nets general manager Billy King said, “The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision… We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”
In a press conference, Collins said, “I haven’t had time to really think about history.” Instead, he said he has been focusing primarily on practicing his plays.
Commissioner Adam Silver said, “Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”
Despite Collins and his coach Jason Kidd focusing predominantly on the game rather than making social history, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce had a lot to say about the significance of Collins’ return to the NBA.
Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, Bryant said, “It’s fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent. I think the most important part about it, what I’ve learned on the issue is that one person coming out is showing this type of courage that gives others that same type of courage.”
Pierce said, “In the society we live in, this was going to happen eventually. This is the normal. He is a guy who is going to open the door for athletes. Maybe not just in America but all over the world, the sports world. That’s going to be key. It doesn’t matter your race, your gender, your sexuality, or any of that. It’s about being part of a team. It’s about caring for one another. That’s all that matters at the end of the day… It’s great to have him here to open the doors for so many athletes to feel comfortable to come out and not be embarrassed and to be part of something.”
Collins has played twelve NBA seasons, including the first seven with the Nets.