If Jason Collins and his current deal with the Brooklyn Nets is only going to last 10 days, then the NBA’s first openly gay player is making the most of it. When he signed with the Nets last Sunday, Collins wore No. 46 in his debut, but he soon switched to the No. 98 that he had previously worn with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards. Collins has said that he wears the No. 98 to honor the late Matthew Shepard, who was murdered for his lifestyle in a hate crime in 1998, and last night Collins took some time after the Nets were victorious at the Denver Nuggets to meet with Shepard’s parents and brothers in private.
While they talked, Collins presented Shepard’s family with an autographed jersey, but it wasn’t the one that he was wearing while he played for 8 minutes, because that would be sweaty and gross. Nobody wants a sweaty jersey.
“It was great,” said Judy Shepard, who had spoken with Collins by phone last year after Collins announced he was gay and wore No. 98 because of her son. “It was all great. He’s very kind, smart, humble. It was delightful. We were happy to finally have the opportunity to meet.”
She said receiving his jersey was “cool. It was very sweet, very genuine and very thoughtful.”
“I did not want to give them a sweaty jersey,” Collins said with a laugh when asked whether it was game-worn. “This is a backup.” (Via ESPN)
Denis Shepard said he hopes that there isn’t much publicity around this, because the focus on Collins should be less about his sexuality and more about his career as an NBA player, but that’s easier said than done. As long as Collins is playing and especially acting as an advocate for gay rights, people will be talking about him. They should also be talking about his four personal fouls in last night’s game, because two fouls a minute will not earn an extension on that 10-day deal.