Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The NBA has to sign Jason Collins now

I was listening to an NPR panel discussion about NBA baller Jason Collins, the first openly gay American athlete in a sport people care about, and guest Kevin Blackistone made some great points about how this will impact Collins as a player.

Blackistone tells us that Collins has been an unremarkable player for 12 years. He has a career average of scoring three points per game and in the current season scored one point per game. He's currently a free agent and up until his announcement yesterday there was a chance he would not be signed next season. Blackistone continued:

Jason Collins may have guaranteed himself a roster spot next year because this is a story that the NBA will want to own, and if he is not on a roster next year and he continues to seek employment in the NBA, and he has said that's what he wants to do, then there may be some feeling from people who are supporting him today... that the league has colluded to keep him out and that in fact the league is not as open as it seemed like it is today or yesterday when he made his announcement.

To be clear, I am not saying that Collins came out to save his career. I also do not want to diminish this inevitable step towards a better world. Still, Collins has put the NBA in a situation where he has to be signed on for another season because refusing to do so would be a PR disaster.


  1. The crowd is fickle.

    So far in my experience when it comes to PR storms, it's true you can't avoid them if making the right choice proves to be unpopular, however if it truly is the right choice (in this case based on player merit), all that will happen is a bunch of people will make a bunch of noise and then ... nothing.

    Unlike other industries that employ people, the NBA has real, quantifiable evidence to justify not hiring him. They have the data necessary to make not only the "right" choice, but the "correct" one and to publicly back it up.

    What happens to the NBA when people get mad at it? Probably not much. People are still going to watch basket ball. People still paid for $80 football tickets and shelled out money for jerseys during the NFL referee debacle. Maybe in the long term, people would stop watching the sport - but only if the decision was truly incorrect.

    What it will come down to is offering the public a valuable product, or "a good show." In the NBA, that means ensuring they have the best players playing. Affirmative Action would not work in sports as people would go nuts if their favorite players were not picked because they were from the majority race/age/sexual-orientation of the sport.

    Three cheers for Jason Collins coming out and advancing this progressive cause.

  2. I wonder if perhaps he didn't come out as he knew he was near the end of his career. He really probably did not know how people would react. So he's thinking "It's the end of my career, if all hell breaks loose, I've made an impact". I'm trying to be charitable. I don't think he thought this was a good move at the beginning of his career! Also, it's good as it is forcing people to speak out, for good and bad. The thing is that there are LOTS of gay men playing sports. But I think it took a small time guy that could afford to lose what was left of his career to make the first move. A big name star, or the big name star that is gay... he's still too afraid. Now I will say that the economic move wasn't perhaps to be resigned. But he has a contract with Nike (hey I hears this on local sports radio so it must be true). No way Nike is going to drop him! In fact, he will pick up deals. Maybe he didn't know if he would or not, but the NBA is not going to be where he makes the money from coming out. It will be the endorsement deals. (For one thing if Nike dropped him, could you see the protests?) So smart economic move more than career move. Smart guy, and also brave as the world is male sports is way behind in this.

  3. When I was a kid we always assumed everyone on the opposing team was gay.