April 30, 2013 at 5:54 am

Terry Foster

Jason Collins' statement about being gay topples barrier

Jason Collins, here playing with the Washington Wizards, has received encouragement and support in pro basketball circles after coming out Monday. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

If Jason Collins, a free agent this summer, signs with an NBA team, he simply should go about his business just like everybody else.

No team meetings. No special announcements. No explaining himself.

Collins is gay. He came out Monday — the first active professional player to do so in one of the four major team sports.

And, if being gay is as accepted as being black or Christian or Democrat, as people claim it to be, then there's no need to bring attention to himself.

"He would not have to explain anything to me," former NBA star Derrick Coleman said. "If that is what he chooses to do, that is fine. We are out here to win. I am the type of person that I do not care. If we are teammates, you are my cousin.

"I don't care what he is."

The announcement has been met with words of encouragement and support.

Kobe Bryant, fined $100,000 for calling a referee a gay slur in the past, wrote on Twitter: "Don't suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others."

Others had similar signs of support, from Billie Jean King ("We've got to get rid of the shame. And Jason's going to help that.") to Celtics coach Doc Rivers ("If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance.") to former President Bill Clinton ("Jason's announcement … is the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities.")

Some don't approve

Not everyone, however, is being supportive.

Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, for example, already has apologized for tweeting: "All these beautiful women in the world and guys want to mess with other guys. SMH."

And, former Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith, also on Twitter, wrote: "It's a shame I have to apologize for my TRUE feelings."

The politically correct thing is to shake your head at those comments, but I believe plenty of people in the sports world agree with him.

Still …

"I don't think it should be an issue," former Pistons center James Edwards said. "He has a lot of courage to come out."

More to worry about

Collins, who has been in the NBA since 2001, is unsigned. He's a bit player — in 713 career games, he has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds — barely hanging on.

While he's not entitled to play next season — no player is — a player who is 7 foot should at least get a look.

But this isn't about Collins' performance on the court.

It's his life.

He's breaking down a barrier, and the next time a male pro athlete says he is gay, it shouldn't be a big deal.

"We got too many other things to worry about," Coleman said. "We got bombings in Boston. We are fighting wars. People are dying. We can't worry about what somebody prefers."

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

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