NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Jason Collins says his historic journey as the NBA’s first openly gay player has been smooth, with the exception of “one knucklehead on another team” who taunted him about his sexuality.
Collins, 35, came out last April in a first-person account for Sports Illustrated. He became the first openly gay active player in the four major American professional leagues when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets in February.
“He’s a knucklehead,” Collins told the New York Daily News of the opposing player, who wasn’t identified. “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.”
Last week, the red-hot Nets signed Collins, whose original 10-day deal was already re-upped once, for the rest of the season.
His No. 98 jersey, worn in honor of slain gay college student Matthew Shepard, rocketed to No. 1 in sales on the NBA’s official website on its first day available for purchase last month.
“This shows that ‘distraction’ is B.S. That it’s about the team, it’s about the sport,” Collins told the Daily News. “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.”
The 7-foot center said March 4 on WFAN radio that his teammates have accepted him completely.
“My life is just so much better,” Collins told WFAN’s Marc Malusis. “Living an authentic life and being accepted for who I am, it’s been terrific.”
Collins was a member of the New Jersey Nets from 2001-08. He’s also had stints in Memphis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston and Washington.
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