Openly gay basketball player Jason Collins, who was signed by the Brooklyn Nets this weekend, has a lot of local fans cheering him on as he makes history.
Collins becoming the first openly gay player on a team’s roster in the four major U.S. sports leagues “is a real Jackie Robinson-type moment,” said Juan Olmedo, a Chelsea psychotherapist who specializes in a gay clientele.
“People are really proud he’s representing New York and helping our reputation for diversity and embracing people as they are.”
Collins’ trailblazing is “absolutely necessary and important,” as an example to young men — especially young gay men of color — that “you don’t have to hide who you are” in order to do what you love, Olmedo said.
“Professional sports is one of the last frontiers in challenging conventional ideas of what is acceptable masculinity,” he explained.
Rob Simmons, 34, a gay basketball fan from Harlem who played basketball and other sports in high school and college, felt he couldn’t come out “until I got done playing sports,” because of the complicated emotional calculus involving other team mates.
“I’m excited. I’m happy to witness this,” said Simmons, a kitchen manager.
Simmons, a Miami Heat fan who was especially eager to see the Nets demolish “my arch nemesis team,” the Lakers, said “I’ll be rooting for” Collins.
Football player Michael Sam, who came out recently and will likely be drafted this May, tweeted Collins his congratulations Sunday (“excited to see you do work out there”).
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “We welcome @jasoncollins34 to Brooklyn and applaud his courage. RT if you’re proud Brooklyn will be emblazoned across his jersey.”
The New York City Gay Basketball League was putting new importance on an offer the Nets made some time ago to provide tickets to the group at a discount. “Now that they have Jason, that goes to the top of the to-do list,” said John Ford, director at large for the NYC GBL Board.
Ford, who owns JKF Fitness & Health, is hoping that Collins will inspire more recreational basketball players to join the NYC Gay Basketball League, which is now drafting players for its own season.