When Michael Sam came out and admitted to everyone outside of the University of Missouri that he was gay going into the NFL draft, he talked with Jason Collins who did something similar during the NBA offseason.
Collins, a 7-footer who had played 12 seasons, last played for the Wizards who acquired him in a late-season trade with the Boston Celtics. Collins was a little-used reserve and the Wizards renounced his rights to make him a free agent last summer. The intention all along, persons with knowledge of the situation told CSN Washington at the time, was that Collins, A.J. Price and Cartier Martin wouldn't be retained. This information preceded Collins' coming out by several weeks and the key players in the Wizards' front office weren't aware of his sexuality.
Collins hasn't played in the NBA since then and hasn't generated any interest among teams. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the topic with Darren Rovell of ESPN, saying Collins doesn't have a contract for basketball reasons:
“In terms of Jason not getting signed, based on everything I’ve been told, it’s a basketball decision,” Silver said. “Our teams want to win and Jason waited until the very tail end of his career to make that announcement….
“We want teams to make the best possible decisions from (a) basketball standpoint. Ultimately that’s what it’s all about. I’m sure Jason was never looking for a special favor or a special slot because he had publicly come out.”
If we're honest here, of course, it's an issue pending the locker room culture. Would Collins be welcomed in Oklahoma City? Of course not. But Los Angeles? Definitely.
At Las Vegas summer league in July, one NBA front office executive, speaking to CSN Washington on the subject, pointed out that even if a team or locker room is accepting of Collins, there's still concern about the media circus that would follow.
Is the attention, the questions -- "What's it like to play with a gay teammate?" -- repeated over and over in 29 cities for a role player who averaged 1 point and 1.5 rebounds last season worth it?