When Jason Collins became the first openly gay NBA player, everyone wondered how he’d be treated. For the most part, things have gone well, but Collins (without naming names) says an opposing player has used anti-gay taunts against him on the court. Per the NY Daily News:
“One player, one knucklehead from another team,” Collins said. “He’s a knucklehead. So I just let it go. Again, that goes back to controlling what you can control. That’s how I conduct myself just being professional.”
Collins is bringing that mind-set into his first trip through multiple Bible Belt states this season, when the Nets leave Saturday for games in Dallas, New Orleans and Charlotte. He understands the insinuations when the trip is brought up as potentially worrisome, but Collins seems to be assuming the best while prepared for everything else.
“You can’t control what other people are going to do,” he said, noting that his mother’s family is from Louisiana and he’s looking forward to the trip.
The support throughout the NBA arena from his standing ovation in Los Angeles to the crowd chanting his name in Brooklyn has been indicative of not only an accepting and enthusiastic environment, save for a “knucklehead.” Still a fringe rotation player whose main job is delivering fouls, Collins’ No. 98 jersey became the top seller on NBA.com, even as the media attention has died down to the point that he’ll leave a practice or locker room without an interview request.
Perhaps more than anything, the blending in will be the lasting legacy of Collins’ trailblazing stint which was put off until after the All-Star break, in part because of fears around the league that he’d be a distraction.
“Not just for myself, but I think for everyone. This shows that ‘distraction’ is B.S. That it’s about the team, it’s about the sport,” said Collins, who signed for the rest of the season last week. “I hope this shows all players that you can still have your life off the court and not have to hide anything. And still have your life on the court or on the field or on the ice, I guess, in hockey. That’s a credit to my teammates and the entire Nets organization from ownership to coaching to teammates to everyone.”