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Fans Lend Their Support To Openly Gay NBA Player, Jason Collins, Who Insists: "It's Just About Basketball."

posted 24 Feb 2014, 10:08 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 24 Feb 2014, 10:09 ]

Jason Collins makes history as he becomes the first openly gay player to take part in a major North American sports league, but to him, once he's on the court - "it's just about basketball."

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIAUNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 23, 2014) (REUTERS) -  NBA basketball player Jason Collins made history on Sunday (February 23) when he took to the court as the first openly gay athlete to play in a major North American sports league.

Prior to the game, which set the L.A. "Lakers" against the Brooklyn "Nets," thousands of fans gathered outside the Staples Center stadium. A number of them spoke with Reuters and lent their support to Collins for coming out as gay.

"I think there's a more open-minded attitude about all lifestyles in general, and it's just time. Sports is like the last frontier. Get some of these guys in the locker room to sort of pick it up and not be like what they do with the harassment and stuff, that would be great," said basketball fan Chuck Holman.

His thoughts were echoed by Lakers fan Josh Furstenberg, who described Collins' decision to come out, which he did in a Sports Illustrated article last April, as "epic."

"You're displaying your manliness and it's all about masculinity," Furstenberg said. "And I mean, you know, the fact that he's able to do that and do his thing, I mean it's epic. It could change everything."

As for Collins himself, he handled the extra media attention following the game with humility, insisting that once he got on the court, basketball was his only priority.

"Once you're on the court, a lot of it, it's just, it's about basketball. It's what I've been doing, like I said before the game, for almost three decades," Collins said at a media conference.

He also offered some advice to other athletes, saying that everyone should simply be who they are.

"What would I say to every other professional athlete or just person, period, is just, you know, live your authentic life. Realize that there's support there waiting for you. It's the only thing I can say about encouraging people to be their true self," Collins said.

The 35-year-old was not a well-known sports star but won widespread praise for his groundbreaking personal statement issued 10 months ago. Collins, who was nearing the end of his career, was not subsequently signed for the 2013-2014 season.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was quick to issue a welcoming statement.

"Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team," said Silver.

"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."

Nets general manager Billy King stressed that the signing of the 7-foot (2.13 m) center helped the Atlantic division team on the court.


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