The day after their season ended, as the Wizards players filed out of Verizon once they completed exit interviews, coach Randy Wittman spoke about his wish list for next season.
“I thought to add people like a Jason Collins, another veteran type guy coming in that can play, that knows situations, that's been involved, I think is going to be important,” Wittman said of the 7-footer who just completed his 12th season.
Monday, Sports Illustrated announced it will have a cover story in its May 6 issue about Collins who has come out as gay.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay,” the SI article begins.
Collins has played on six NBA teams. His first six-and-a-half seasons were with the Brooklyn Nets. His twin, Jarron, is a 6-11 center who last played in the NBA in 2011 as a backup for the Portland Trail Blazers. Both went to Stanford.
Jarron also wrote a first-person account for the magazine: "I won't lie. I had no idea. We talked, he answered my questions, I hugged him and I digested what he had told me. At the end of the day, this is what matters: He's my brother, he's a great guy, and I want him to be happy. I'll love him and I'll support him and, if necessary, I'll protect him."
Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld offered his support in a statement, as did NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly," Grunfeld said. "He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”
Said Stern: “As (deputy commissioner) Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."
The Wizards acquired Collins in a trade from the Boston Celtics in February. Collins only appeared in six games for Washington. But as the season came to a close, the personal issue of his sexuality came to a head.
“The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage,” Collins said. “Less than three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard and I couldn't say a thing. I didn't want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.”
Collins, who is a free agent, already indicated that he’d consider playing for the Celtics again. How does this announcement impact his ability to still play in the NBA, if at all, remains to be seen.
“My maternal grandmother was apprehensive about my plans to come out publicly," Collins said. "She grew up in rural Louisiana and witnessed the horrors of segregation. During the civil rights movement she saw great bravery play out amid the ugliest side of humanity. She worries that I am opening myself u up to prejudice and hatred. I explained to her that in a way, my coming out is preemptive. I shouldn't have to live under the threat of being outed. The announcement should be mine to make, not TMZ’s.”