Basketball player Jason Collins, who came out as gay last year as a free agent, has been signed to play in the upcoming National Basketball Association (NBA) season by the Brooklyn Nets. He will be the first openly gay man to play in any one of the top four major North American sports leagues – the NBA, Major League Baseball, .the National Football League and the National Hockey League.
In late April of last year, Collins was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a rather blunt quote written across his waist in large font:
“I’m gay.” The story shook American pop culture, with everyone from President Barack Obama to Kanye West giving the athlete immense praise for his bravery.
It had been nine months since his announcement, and he had yet to be signed.
Even this signing is a most tentative one: he was signed at the trading deadline of Feb. 20 to a minute 10-day contract. His fate has yet to be unveiled, but as Bleacher Report warned, “His return to life as an active NBA player may be short-lived.”
Collins has been making the most of his time on the court, however. He sported the number 98 on his jersey to commemorate the slain Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten, tortured and left to die hanging on a fence.
Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mom, recently told New York Daily News that what happened to her son was“a watershed moment for the gay community,” and that she had a warm welcome prepared for Collins should she cross paths with him.