Take that Putin: Jason Collins Becomes First Openly Gay Pro Basketball Player

Jason Collins made history last night by donning a Brooklyn Nets uniform, becoming the first openly gay player to set foot on a professional basketball court. The groundbreaking moment came two weeks after Michael Sam, a star college football player, announced he was gay, paving the way to make history in the National Football League if he is drafted later this year.


The Nets are owned by the billionaire Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian politician who notably ran against Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in presidential elections in 2012.  He came in third. Prokhorov has spoken out for gay rights in Russia, where the LGBT community is under siege. “It is a personal affair who has sex with whom,” Prokhorov said last year.

Before the Olympics began, several of the participating athletes pointedly spoke out against Russia's controversial anti-gay laws, and President Obama sent a delegation of gay athletes to the Games and skipped the event, which was widely seen as a poke at Putin. Prokhorov has not made a statement regarding Collins or Russia's controversial anti-LGBT laws.

Collins, who garnered support from Sam on Twitter, came out as gay last spring.  He was a free agent until yesterday, when the Nets signed him to a 10-day contract as they continue to attempt to make it into the playoffs.  10-day contracts are meant as job tryouts in the National Basketball Association.  Teams can sign players to two separate 10-day contracts before signing them to permanent deals.

“Right now, I’m focused on trying to learn the plays, the game plan assignment,” Collins said before his debut Nets game.  “I don’t have time to really think about history right now.”

Collins played for 11 minutes last night--and each minute was history in the making.  The center scored no points, but had two rebounds and a steal.  The next 9 days will be crucial for Collins, as he tries to prove to the Nets that he is an essential player that can help them win games.


 

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