Jason Collins Walks In Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Footsteps

It only seemed fitting.

After all, when sports moves – and it did in a big way on Sunday night – Brooklyn owns it.

The Brooklyn Nets knocked down a barrier, signing journeyman center Jason Collins to a 10-day contract. When Collins came off the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center, Collins became the first openly gay man on a team roster in any of North America's four major professional sports leagues.

Collins officially came out nine months ago in a Sports Illustrated article.

At the end of his career and a free agent, most wondered if Collins, 35, would ever be signed to join in NBA squad.

It wasn't just if he could play anymore, but whether players would be accepting of an "out" player in their locker room. Let's face it, guys have been in denial that there already were gay men among them.

 Collins sat idle until now.

 This stepping out there alone is nothing new for Brooklyn.

BK, the mover-and-shaker borough of NYC, went against the grain in 1947 when the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson to be the first African American player in Major League Baseball.

To add perspective, the New York Yankees, just a borough away, didn't come around and add a black player until 1955 when Elston Howard put on pinstripes.

Hence, Brooklyn's signing of Robinson as a huge step. It not only broke the color barrier in the segregated national pastime, it also made black people feel better about themselves, that they were finally a part of this country and just as worthy to be on the same stage as white people.

Some look at this Collins moment on par, a player with a uniform that reads "Brooklyn" across the front doing something no one else had done before in these United States.

Others claim it's an insult to put Collins and Robinson in the same sentence. That group doesn't believe someone's race and their sexuality are the same. It's a long-standing debate neither side will give in on.

Nonetheless, Robinson and Collins are comparable as both are pioneers. And both had courage.

Robinson was brave to battle the racists that believed he didn't belong out on the field, that he was, somehow, subhuman. It was nasty, indeed.

The reason most men in pro sports have hid their lives has a lot to do with the same backlash. Even given some strides in recent years, homosexuality is still looked down on.

Some just believe it shouldn't be public, that gay athletes should stay in the "closet." Living a lie can't be fun or healthy. Those days have to be behind us.

The sad part is that some believe there's some kind of gay agenda being pushed. It's just not true. There were gay athletes in the past and are even now. They are just not open about it.

Narrow-minded people, still living in a fantasy land, just don’t want to believe the guy they root for has desires for another man because he can shoot a ball, hit a home run or break tackles.

For whatever reason, it was just more acceptable for women to expose their sexuality than men.

The list of gay women athletes is a mile long and reaches back decades, including Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Heck, just a few years ago, Brittney Griner let the world know she was gay before joining the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

On that day, no needles moved, the Earth didn't shake, no clocks stopped. Nothing.

Hopefully, the same will happen as more male players live their lives and don't have to hide behind a facade. The NFL appears to next with the drafting of Michael Sam, the talented defensive end from Missouri.

The bottom line is that the Nets needed a big man. That's why they signed Collins. This isn't a publicity stunt. Nets aren't looking to sell tickets. "The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision," Nets' GM Billy King said in a statement.

Collins – who got a nice hand from the crowd when he entered the game in L.A. – played 10 minutes and grabbed two rebounds.

"Right now, I'm focused on trying to learn plays, the game plan assignment," Collins told the media before the game. "I don't have time to really think about history right now."

Again, the sports world will follow Brooklyn.

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