Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets last Sunday, making him the first openly gay player in any of America’s four major sports. While the NBA does not usually sell the jerseys of players with limited contract time, they made an exception due to what NBA senior vice president for business and licensing affairs Vicky Picca told The New York Times was an “unprecedented” level of interest.
Collins’ No. 98 was the most popular jersey in its first day on NBAStore.com.
No. 98 isn’t just any old number to Collins — but rather a symbolic tribute to slain gay college student Matthew Shepard who was murdered in 1998. Collins met with Shepard’s parents Thursday when the Nets played the Denver Nuggets.
The league’s decision to donate its jersey proceeds to the two activist non-profits comes at a time when discussion surrounding gay athletes is incredibly topical. Likely NFL draft pick Michael Sam announced he was gay this February, which led to one D.C. lobbyist proposing legislation to ban gay players in the NFL.
The league said the donations will total no less than $100,000, and it will also auction off Collins’ autographed, game-worn jerseys to benefit the same organizations.
Collins said he is thrilled to help the organizations that “work tirelessly to ensure LGBT youth get the resources and assistance they need to be successful in life.”