Jason Collins Is Unsigned because He Is Gay

by Greg Pollowitz

That’s what Jeff Pearlman argues in an op-ed over at CNN.com. You see, it doesn’t matter that he’s 34 and averaged 3.6 points-per-game last year, his being gay is the sole reason why teams aren’t interested. An excerpt:

Jason Collins, however, ceased being ordinary the moment he announced he was gay.

To thousands upon thousands of Americans, he became a beacon of hope and a sign that maybe sexuality would matter not the in machismo-stuffed world of professional sports. If LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul could embrace a gay man as a teammate, what excuse would the loudmouth, homophobic blockhead at the construction site or law firm have for his close-mindedness?

Finally, things were about to change.

Only they weren’t because, well, nobody called. The NBA has been repeatedly defended in its inaction with predictable attacks on Collins’ game — too slow, too marginal, too worthless. Yet could somebody (anybody?) have at least invited him to training camp — land of myriad oafs and fringe players itching to land a job?

Hell, the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason roster included Dan Gadzuric and Eric Boateng, two men with limited skill sets and without Collins’ great teammate/dogged worker resume. Hell, the Atlanta Hawks briefly employed David Lighty, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with no redeeming NBA attributes. Hell, the New York Knicks, according to NBC Sports’ D.J. Foster, “have basically worked out everyone who has ever touched a basketball this offseason.” Everyone save Collins.

This isn’t a hard one to figure out.

Dan Gadzuric was on the Lakers from September 27, 2013 until October 9, 2013; Eric Boateng was with the Lakers for slightly longer — September 25, 2013 until October 9, 2013.

Does Pearlman have any better examples, or will he declare victory if some team signs a gay player for all of two weeks?

And it’s not only Collins’s age that’s working against him, it’s the leagues collective bargaining agreement that would guarantee him a salary of $1,399,507 if he makes a team. Pearlman leaves this out of his piece entirely. The New York Times expands on the economic disincentive of signing Collins:

Several league executives said the number of teams interested in Collins had shrunk because of new penalties for teams exceeding the luxury tax threshold.

Brooklyn was thought to be a potential landing site because Collins spent roughly half his career with the Nets when they played in New Jersey, where he was a trusted teammate of Jason Kidd, now the team’s coach. But with the Nets’ soaring payroll, Collins would have cost the team almost four times his salary in taxes.

Collins acknowledged that signing younger players would be more prudent financially, but he asked how experience could be discounted in such a competitive sport.

And there is at least one team — the Clippers — who have interest:

Doc Rivers, who coached Collins for part of last season in Boston and is now the coach and chief basketball executive of the Los Angeles Clippers, said he would have no problem being the one.

“Let me put it this way: if one of my bigs goes down and he’s not signed, I’m signing him,” Rivers said. “I’m not signing him because he’s gay. I’m not signing him because it’s a story and it brings us attention. I’m signing him because he has a value to help us win. I do have the advantage that I coached him, and I know what type of guy he is, how tough he is.”

So we’ll see if Collins plays this year, but if he doesn’t, let’s not assume the reason is because he’s gay.

Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.