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Jason Collins talks about being part of the New York City Pride parade

NBA’s first openly gay player now talks to every new draft class

Former NBA player Jason Collins, the first openly gay active NBA player, was part of Sunday’s New York City Pride celebration. For him, the NBA’s participation sent a message of inclusion and support of the LGBT community.

“I’m very proud of the work the NBA has done over the past several years,” he said. “Being the first to participate in the New York City Pride parade, obviously now it seems all the other leagues are following in our footsteps by participating.”

For Collins, there was also no bigger statement of inclusion than when the NBA commissioner discussed moving the All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2016 because of discriminatory legislation: the so-called “bathroom bill.”

“That statement to the LBGT community was one of support that was heard throughout our society, especially in the world of sports,” Collins said. “We’re trying to change the culture of sport.”

Collins was excited to join the parade with some active NBA players, including New York Knicks president Steve Mills and Knicks forward Michael Beasley.

Others on the float included NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, WNBA president Lisa Borders, NBA chief diversity and inclusion officer Oris Stuart, Detroit Pistons player Reggie Bullock, WNBA legend Kym Hampton, Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden, Knicks head coach David Fizdale, Knicks vice president of player development and G League operations Craig Robinson, Milwaukee Bucks player John Henson, NBA referee Billy Kennedy and WNBA legend Teresa Weatherspoon.

“I encourage people to use their platform to signal to everyone that the NBA stands for diversity, inclusion and acceptance,” Collins said of their participation.

Collins agrees that the NBA has been doing a better job offering support to players.

“When I was in the closet and saw our commissioner, and our league office, fine people for using homophobic language,” Collins said. “It’s a minimum fine, it is $50,000. When I saw that, that was a signal to me that the league office has my back, and has the back of the community, because they’re trying to get it in our players’ and also our fans’ minds that homophobic language will not be accepted in our arenas.”

For several years, Collins has spoken with new NBA players about inclusion.

“For the past several years, every single person who has been drafted into the NBA has heard a speech from me, heard a speech from Hudson Taylor, Hameed Ali, about creating a more welcoming locker room environment and increasing their awareness, and educating them on some of the language that they use with regards to homophobic language and sexist language,” Collins said.

These days, Collins feels great about his decision to share his life publicly.

“I feel great about the way I’ve been treated and accepted by my NBA and WNBA family,” he said. “Just very, very happy.”

Collins’ twin brother, Jarron Collins, is an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors and attended all four 2018 NBA Finals games, in which the Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I know what it’s like to be slapped in the Finals, thanks to Shaq [O’Neal] and Kobe [Bryant],” he joked. “So it’s really cool to be on the opposite side and see the Warriors finish off the sweep, and then to celebrate with them in Cleveland that night and early morning.”

But he was there for more than family and basketball. In both Cleveland, and Oakland, California, he spent time working with NBA Cares, the league’s social responsibility program, as part of the NBA Finals Legacy Project.

“We did a Boys & Girls Club there in San Leandro, and then also in Cleveland at the Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center,” he said. “We went in and put in a new health and wellness studio, and also a new computer lab for the kids there. It’s great to see the NBA Cares legacy aspect, but then obviously it’s great to support my brother, who just won his third ring. It was amazing, and I’m so happy to be working with NBA Cares.”

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.