Gay player's deal makes NBA history

Hillingdon Times: Openly gay basketball player Jason Collins who made history by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Nets (AP Photo/Jim Mone. file) Openly gay basketball player Jason Collins who made history by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Nets (AP Photo/Jim Mone. file)

Equal rights campaigners have praised an openly gay basketball player and his new team after he made history by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

Jason Collins is to become the first openly gay player in NBA history after signing a 10-day contract with the team this weekend .

British-based gay rights charity Stonewall said the deal - signed after Collins came out during an interview last year - sent positive messages to gay, bisexual and lesbian sportsmen and women.

Sam Dick, Stonewall director of campaigns, said: "It is wonderful that Jason Collins has felt able to come out. He is a role model showing young gay people that their sexual orientation should not be a barrier to fulfilling their potential.

"This sends a clear and positive message to people that what matters is their ability - not who they love."

Collins joins the small number of sporting stars to have come out as gay, after former Germany and Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger did so earlier this year.

Unlike Hitzlsperger, however, Collins is still playing professionally.

Mr Dick said: "It's absolutely shocking that in 2014 there are barely any gay people in sport today.

"We think it's wonderful about Jason Collins, and sends a very clear message to people."

General manager Billy King told his club's website: "The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision.

"We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract."

Collins revealed his sexuality 10 months ago, but has not played in the NBA since April 2013 with the Washington Wizards. He has spent this season working out privately after failing to earn any pre-season interest as a free agent.

John Amaechi, the British player who appeared in the NBA for Cleveland, Orlando, Utah and Houston in his career, did not reveal his sexuality until 2007, four years after he had left the league.

News of Collins' signing comes after much discussion about the likelihood of an openly gay player joining the NFL this year.

Michael Sam, a defensive end from the University of Missouri, is expected to be selected in May's NFL draft, having come out as gay earlier this month.

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