When Mark Madsen got a text message from Jason
Collins early Monday morning asking him to call, Madsen thought the two
were going to discuss graduate school options.
completed his MBA at Stanford, where both he and Collins played
basketball as undergrads, and Madsen knows Collins is interested in
"He said, 'I'm actually coming out. I'm gay,' "
Madsen told USA TODAY Sports. "I said, 'Jason, thanks for letting me
know. I got your back.' "
The two talked privately for a few minutes, Madsen said, before Collins began calling others in advance of a first-person Sports Illustrated story hitting the web.
Collins will be a free agent this summer.
Where he'll play next season, if he does, is one of many questions
about the first openly gay male athlete in North American team sports
while still an active player. Here are some others:
Q: Why is Collins a good fit for this role?
Cyd Zeigler, a manager of OutSports.com, a leading website on gay sports, has covered this issue for years.
talked about who this person could be in the past. And Jason kind of
fits the mold. A really good player who's been in the league for a long
time who doesn't have a lot to lose in endorsement deals. He is set for
the rest of his life financially. I never thought it was going to be a
Q: Why is the timing right?
written before that the best time for an athlete to make such an
announcement would be early in an offseason. Collins' timing "just two
weeks after his regular season ended, and six months before the season
starts, it couldn't be a better time to do this. The media will get the
story out of its system before tip-off of the next season."
Q: Are pro team sports ready to accept gay athletes in their locker rooms?
said he thinks NBA locker rooms are ready: "Do you respect others, how
do you treat others and how do you play? Those are the rules of the
locker room. Religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation ... all those
things are secondary to the goal of winning basketball games. It's a
meritocracy in the NBA. People perform or don't perform."
Plank, who played for the Chicago Bears in the '70s and '80s and
coached in the NFL, said on Orlando radio this month: "Everybody tries
to be politically correct ... especially people who operate in business
and other public occupations. But you get inside an NFL locker room, I
tell you what, it's something else. It's a jungle in there. ... Last
time I was in an NFL locker room, changing clothes every day and getting
ready to go out to practice, I just think that would be a very, very
tough environment for someone to come forward and say they have
different sexual orientation."
Outside the locker room "we've
certainly seen so much more acceptance," Plank said. "It's almost normal
now. It's not a big issue. But there are still those last bastions that
are left and sports is one of them. You get into a locker room with
these type of individuals that are very, very driven and very physical,
and I think it's still an issue."
Q: How did Collins make his announcement?
Collins started his piece in SI, written with Franz Lidz, by writing: "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
excerpts: "I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand
and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have
already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand. ...
When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to
live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids
with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it
Later Monday, Collins tweeted: "All the support I have
received today is truly inspirational. I knew that I was choosing the
road less traveled but I'm not walking it alone"
"Thank you to
everyone who has reached out to me thru email, texts, calls, tweets,
letters, and every other form of communication #support."
Q: What about his twin, Jarron, who also played in the NBA?
Jarron Collins also wrote a first-person piece for SI
in which he said his brother told him last summer: "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."
Q: Exactly what was it that ESPN's NBA insider Chris Broussard said on his network's Outside the Lines show?
I don't believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or ...
openly (engage in) premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you're
openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by
their fruits, it says that's a sin. If you're openly living in
unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery,
fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be. I
think that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ."
Q: Charles Barkley also weighed in, on NBA TV. What did he say?
all played with gay guys. We didn't treat them bad. ... For us to have
an honest discussion, if guys don't like it, they should be able to say
it and not get crucified."
Q: Longtime NBA executive Rick
Welts, who is now the president of the Golden State Warriors, disclosed
publicly that he is gay two years ago. What was his take on Monday's
"This is such a personal thing to reach the point in
your life where you're prepared to do this. I'm very proud of him. It's a
very, very courageous thing that he chose to do. I read the story. It
came through that it was very authentic. ... He's somebody who didn't
have the benefit of somebody going before him in the same situation to
learn, to watch, to see how people would react. It takes a man of great
courage to do what he did today. I'm happy for him. He's going to be
able to be the complete Jason Collins every day for the rest of his
"I think he probably knows what he signed up for. He's going
to face a whole bunch more television cameras and reporters than he
probably has over the course of the last couple seasons. But clearly,
it's somebody who's given this a lot of thought. He's prepared for it
and it's what he signed up for. There's been a lot of speculation about
when, who, how (an athlete from any of the major sports would come out).
And that speculation's been put to rest now and we'll always remember
that Jason Collins was the first player to do this."
Q: Will Monday's news help or hurt Collins as a free agent?
don't think it will hurt him," Zeigler said. "There are very few front
office executives who will look at somebody and say, 'He could help us,
but because he's gay we don't want him.' There will be some executives
who see a marketing opportunity."
Veteran NBA executive Ed
Stefanski was part of the then-New Jersey Nets front-office staff that
drafted Jason Collins No. 18 in the first round in 2001. "His basketball
IQ was off the chart," Stefanski said, adding he would be "very disappointed" if Collins' announcement hurt his chances.
has done a good job getting his weight down," Stefanski said. "But can
he be athletic enough? He's smart enough. But can he be a third center
for a team? ... A young team can use a player like him in the locker
room, and a real good team can use him in spots to give guys a breather
and know the team isn't going to fall apart when he's on the court."
is not involved in player personnel decisions, but said: "If he can
convince a coach and general manager that he can play and help their
team, he'll have another job. ... It'll all be what he can do on the
Q: At what point will announcements like Monday's no longer be news?
"I don't know at what point, whether it's No. 7 or 12 or 18, when the
media has had enough of this story. We're not there yet. Gay people
can't get married. I can't marry my partner of 10 years. When we have
equal rights, and we're out and proud in every aspect of life, then I
think we'll see that. But until then, it's still an issue."
Q: So what's the big picture takeaway?
lagging behind where our society is on this issue," Welts said of men's
pro team sports. "To some degree, we caught up a little bit today."