John Amaechi on Jason Collins: “He Knew all the Implications from the Very Beginning. He Deserves Great Credit”

NBA veteran Jason Collins revealed to the world on Monday that he is a gay professional athlete. The big announcement came on Sports Illustrated’s website. Collins is a free agent and made the daring move to come out while still being an active player. The 12-year veteran was tired of living a lie and should be commended for the courage it took to make this announcement. John Amaechi became the first former NBA player to come out publicly after doing so in his book ‘Man in the Middle,’ in. Amaechi spoke with Collins before this announcement and sheds some light on the emotions that Collins was dealing with. John Amaechi joined Fox Sports Radio with Primetime to discuss his reaction to Jason Collins coming out as a gay basketball player, the impact of Collins coming out as an active NBA player, the reason why Collins came out now, the general public still being squeamish about a professional athlete coming out and the chances of an NBA team signing Collins after coming out.

So Jason Collins? Your thoughts?

“I think he is remarkable guy. I’ve been speaking to him over the last month and he was talking about this decision to come out and obviously one of the things I said was that being out was better than being in. It’s better and more healthy for you, but the reality is that he is just a perfect spokesperson. He’s eloquent. He’s smart. He’s thoughtful, and he’s going to be out there navigating through the nuisances of what, at times, might be a little bit turbulent water.”

Some people are saying that Jason Collins’ impact may not be that big because he’s a free agent and not in the prime of his career. What do you think?

“I think this line — and I know it’s not yours — is one of the most juvenile out there. The fact is that people will say this about Jason to try and minimize what he has done and to try and suggest what he has done is not brave or not bold, but it is. The reality is that they will say this about Jason and then the next player comes out and it’ll be the middle of their career and people will say, ‘Maybe if he is a better player this would be important.’ Then the next player will come out mid-career and then there will be a better player and he was an All-Star. Then maybe it’ll be important. The excuses will just keep coming. Maybe he’s the best player in the league. These are weak excuses. The fact is that what he’s done is brave. He’s done this in a country where there is still a great deal of anti-gay sentiment that is manifested in lore. Never mind anything else, and yet he’s out there as an eloquent spokesperson, not just for gay people, but to show difference is not something you need to be afraid of, and that perhaps the assumptions of who belongs in what jobs and what parts of society, you can be a little bit shaken up, and I think he’s going to do that very well.”

Why did Jason Collins come out now?

“I’m not necessarily going to talk about my conversations with Jason, but I know that he’s the kind of player that is very considerate. He was concerned about what would happen with his team in terms of whenever he came out. If he came out during the season, would that just throw his team into disarray? And I think that is a very legitimate concern. I think now shows a great deal of compassion for the people around him, that he did it at this time rather than some rooted cowardice, which I don’t think it is. I think the reality is that he considered it like all the players I have spoken to in football, basketball and other leagues around the world. Everybody dreams about the time they can come out with no fanfare, but knowing that there is going to be some huge fanfare, as you have seen by the scramble by the media in the last two or three hours. I got 760 interview requests in my e-mail inbox right now — 760. It’s still a big deal.” When will professional athletes coming out about their sexuality stop becoming a big deal?
“When enough people with enough power grow up. Right now there are still people with great power in positions of leadership within politics, within business, who behave like 5-year-olds being touched by a girl for the first time when they talk about gay stuff. They are squeamish and act like they are going to get cooties for the first time by talking about it.”

Is Jason Collins aware of the whole dynamic now? Do you think someone will sign him under this kind of spotlight?

“He knew all the implications from the very beginning. That’s part of the reason why he deserves great credit. There are some people that are just not that smart. The ongoing implications for this decision might not hit them, but Jason Collins knew this from the beginning. He knew it might impact his career, but he also knew that he wanted to play more, but he wanted to play more in a way that was authentic. The other thing people don’t realize is that he’ll be a better player despite dealing with some attractions and some comments from the stands, I’m sure, maybe even from one or two players on other teams and people that don’t know him. He’s going to deal with some of that, but he’s going to be far less clouded by the fact that he could just be himself when he plays. It’s a huge weight to take off his shoulders.”

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