Kidd, Nets players voice support for gay teammate Collins

Kidd, Nets players voice support for gay teammate Collins
February 23, 2014, 2:30 pm
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He's a basketball player. He's a great guy. He can help a team, so that's the only way this team is going to look at it.
Jason Kidd on Jason Collins

Jason Collins and Jason Kidd were teammates in New Jersey for over six seasons -- 2001-2008. (AP)

The NBA on Sunday took a giant step toward acceptance of openly gay professional athletes when the Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract.

It's a fractional financial investment and a small contractual commitment. It could, however, have huge ramifications for American professional sports.

Collins, 35, is expected to be available to play in Sunday night's game against the Lakers in Los Angeles, according to Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the signing.

No matter how he performs, this is a landmark achievement inasmuch as Collins will become the first openly gay male athlete in major American sports.

The former Stanford star announced last spring than he was gay, writing a first-person cover story for Sports Illustrated. The 12-year NBA veteran center was a free agent at the time and went unsigned until the Nets came calling.

Nets coach Jason Kidd, a former teammate of Collins with the New Jersey Nets, acknowledged as early as Friday the possibility that he could join the club.

"He's a basketball player," Kidd said when asked about Collins. "He's a great guy. He can help a team, so that's the only way this team is going to look at it."

Brooklyn players also publicly endorsed the pending move, which comes two weeks after former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, in anticipation of the NFL Scouting Combine, announced he is gay and relishes the opportunity to hurdle the barrier in the NFL.

[RELATED: Sam wants to be known only as a football player]

"I had a chance to play with him in Atlanta," veteran wing Joe Johnson said. "He's a great teammate. We would gladly welcome him here.

"It shouldn't be a problem. We've got a veteran group. Everybody's pretty comfortable in their own skin. It's (about) what he can do to help us out on the court."

The Nets signed Collins knowing full well what will follow. This resonates throughout a culture where there is some conflict about the rights of those who identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender.

The Nets made the move anyway. Applaud their clear-eyed fairness and courage.

"It's definitely going to be a media circus, just because of the situation," Nets guard Deron Williams said. "It's a historic day. We'll definitely have to deal with that. But the type of team we have . . . it shouldn't be a problem.

"It's not him being a distraction. It's just the media coming along with it.

"It's 2014. Michael Sam just came out. His teammates (at Missouri) welcomed him in college. It's time for the NBA as well."