The Nets' signing of Collins comes not long after University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he is gay earlier this month in an ESPN "Outside The Lines" interview. Sam, though, can't make his official NFL debut until the fall. Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional sports league when he made his Major League Soccer debut in May 2013, just three months after coming out. And John Amaechi, who spent five seasons in the NBA with Orlando, Utah and Cleveland, disclosed his sexuality three years after his playing career ended in a 2007 book entitled "Man In The Middle."
Sam reacted to Collins news on Twitter.
Rogers also tweeted about Collins.
Very excited to watch @jasoncollins34 tonight more importantly I am proud to call him my friend.- Robbie Rogers (@robbierogers) February 23, 2014
Athlete Ally, a non-profit group that works closely with the NBA and other professional sports leagues on LGBT inclusion, applauded the Nets' decision.
"Today, Jason Collins tore open the last remaining closet in America, and became the first openly gay player to be signed by a team in one of the big four sports. We are especially excited that Jason will be playing in Brooklyn, just like Jackie Robinson, and in a marriage equality state. This is a piece of history, an important point on the continuum toward justice and a moment to celebrate," Brian Ellner, a member of the Athlete Ally board of directors said in a statement.
In an interview with ESPN's LZ Granderson in January, Collins said he has been training hard while waiting for an opportunity.
"I try to control what I can control and that's how hard I train right now," Collins said. "I know that I'm in great shape and that if I get an opportunity ... if an owner, coach, GM calls my agent ... I'll be ready to play."
Asked if being gay has harmed his ability to get a call, he said: "I have no idea. For me, again, it goes back to what I can control, and that's my training."
Asked what has changed for him since he came out, Collins said: "I get to be who I am. I don't have to walk around with a censor button. I don't have to walk around with 'don't say this, don't do this.'"
Senior writers Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein cover the NBA for ESPN.com.