Anonymous NFL executives are busy offering thin justifications for why Michael Sam wouldn’t make a good professional football player. Not to be outdone, the NBA is getting in on the act.
With the sports world abuzz after Sam’s announcement that he is gay, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed his own league, which is still devoid of an openly homosexual player. Nine months since telling the world in a Sports Illustrated article that he is gay, veteran big man Jason Collins remains unsigned. Yet Silver insists Collins’ sexuality had nothing to do with it.
“In terms of Jason not getting signed, based on everything I’ve been told, it’s a basketball decision,” Silver told ESPN’s Darren Rovell. “Our teams want to win and Jason waited until the very tail-end of his career to make that announcement.”
Collins has remained on the sidelines since making his announcement in April. He averaged just 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game last season, part of which he spent with the Boston Celtics, making his absence from the league understandable. Until Sunday, most observers were willing to accept that explanation.
The reaction to Sam’s announcement forces a reassessment of that logic, however. NFL executives told SI.com that Sam’s sexuality would hurt his draft stock, despite Sam being voted the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Missouri’s most valuable player last season. With that in mind, it’s fair to consider if Collins’ inability to find a team isn’t completely a basketball matter.
Collins was 35 years, 70 days old as of Monday. He would be the 25th-oldest active player in the NBA this season, less than a year older than the illustrious likes of Rasual Butler, John Salmons and Earl Watson. Collins is considerably younger than Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard, all of whom were on NBA rosters at the start of the 2012-13 season.
When Collins made his announcement last season, then-Celtics Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers were among those who voiced unconditional support for their former teammate. Pierce remarked that Collins probably would “open the door for other athletes who probably now are going to have the courage to come out.”
Sorry, Pierce. It appears that door remains closed — for Collins and potentially any other players who are knocking.