Welts on Jason Collins: 'I'm very proud of him'
About an hour before Jason Collins' story, announcing he was gay, was posted to SI.com Monday morning, Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts' phone started ringing.
Welts, who came out as gay in a New York Times article in 2011, was given the heads up as to what the day would bring.
"I'm very proud of him. It's a very, very courageous thing that he chose to do," Welts said. "I read the story, it was very authentic. It came through as very, very genuine."
Since Welts made his private life public almost two years ago, he's embraced his role as a default spokesman regarding homosexuality in sports. He is confident Collins, a Stanford graduate, will be ready to handle whatever comes his way as a result of his own decision to come out.
"This is what I signed up for and this is what he's signing up for too," Welts said. "I'm sure he's going to welcome being part of the conversation."
Collins' articulate piece written with help of Franz Lidz certainly certainly points in that direction.
"I think he probably knows what he signed up for," Welts said. "He's going to face more television cameras and reporters than he probably has over the past couple seasons, but clearly it's somebody whose given this a lot of thought. He's prepared for it and it's what he signed up for."
Welts, of course, didn't have to consider the locker room aspect that surrounds the concept of a gay professional athlete. With Collins, who is currently a free agent following his 12th NBA season, new ground will be plowed if he lands on an NBA roster next season.
"He's somebody that didn't have the benefit of having someone going before him in the same situation, to learn, to watch, to see how people would react," Welts said. "It takes a man of great courage to do what he did today. I'm happy for him because he's going to be able to be the real Jason Collins every day for the rest of his life."
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who is also a pastor at the True Love Worship Center in Southern California, was asked if Collins would be welcomed as a Warrior.
"If he had game. If he can help this basketball team," Jackson said. "Today, he can't help this basketball team."
Jackson worked as an analyst on New Jersey Nets game for three years when Collins was a member of the team and knows both him and his family. At one point, Collins' mother even helped get one of Jackson's children into a private school in Southern California.
"We live in a country that allows you to be whoever you want to be," Jackson said. "As a Christian man, I serve a God that gives you free will to be who you want to be.
"As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what's right and what's wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and certainly praying for them at this time."
Jackson also played with John Amaechi, who came out after his career was over, and acknowledged the NBA landscape could be difficult for an openly gay player.
"There's a reason why in these situations these players are at the end or done," Jackson said. "So, obviously that answers itself. Right, wrong or indifferent. It is something that is new to people."
Collins, 34, appeared in six games for the Wizards this year, averaging 0.7 points and 1.3 rebounds. Regardless if another NBA team extends his career, Welts said he'll have several other opportunities in life.
"He's surrounded by some good smart people and that Stanford degree is going to help him as he decides what he wants to do," Welts said.