Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, has publicly announced that he's gay, making him the first openly gay athlete in a major American sport.
After his announcement, which was published by Sports Illustrated, Collins has seen strong initial support from several fellow professional basketball players, as well as celebrities.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tweeted: “Proud of Jason Collins. Don't suffocate who [you are] because of the ignorance of others.” Filmmaker Spike Lee and singer Lance Bass also voiced their support for Collins on Monday.
In addition to backing from other athletes and stars, the NFL released an anti-discrimination document to players and coaches following Collins' announcement. The policy states that potential players or free agents cannot be asked questions about their sexual orientation during the draft, and that jokes or comments about sexual orientation are considered harassment.
Collins, who was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Washington Wizards in February, will be a free agent this summer.
At the moment, Nike is Collins' only sponsor. Since the brand hosted its first Nike LGBT Sports Summit in its Portland, OR, office a little less than a year ago, it seems like a perfect fit for the athlete.
Aside from Nike, Collins' announcement has opened doors for other brands that support the LGBT community, such as General Motors, Marriott, and Starbucks.
With the Supreme Court having recently heard arguments about the legalization of gay marriage, more companies have come out in support of gay rights, including Expedia, Bud Light, Absolut, Oreo, and Target. So Collins will likely get more support from marketers down the line who are trying to engage the LGBT audience.
Despite the slew of support for Collins, the social media world saw an insensitive tweet on the topic from Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace. The tweet said, “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys,” which he deleted shortly after posting and then tweeted, “I'm not bashing anybody."
The NFL, which has never had an active openly gay player, said it will review Wallace's tweet. The league, along with other professional sports organizations such as the NHL, have begun working with gay advocacy groups to help players accept fellow teammates who may come out as gay.