Rick Welts: ‘I’m Very Proud’ of Collins

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OAKLAND – Saying “it took a man of great courage to do what he did today,” Warriors president Rick Welts offered praise and support for Jason Collins on Monday after the Wizards center became the first active athlete in any of the four major U.S. sports to announce he is gay.

Welts, a former top executive in the league office who had a major role in turning All-Star weekend from a Sunday game coupled with minor events into the NBA extravaganza of today, has been at the forefront of any conversation involving sports and homosexuality since he came out two years ago in a New York Times article. When Collins made a similar decision, via Sports Illustrated, Welts once again stepped into the role of pseudo-spokesman, only this time in the unique setting of the Warriors practice court on an off day for the team as it prepared to head to Denver for Game 5 of the playoffs on Tuesday.

“This is such a personal thing to reach the point in your life where you’re prepared to do this,” Welts said. “I’m very proud of him. It’s a very, very courageous thing that he chose to do. I read the story. It came through that it was very authentic. It came through as very, very genuine. He’s somebody who didn’t have the benefit of somebody going before him in the same situation to learn, to watch, to see how people would react. It takes a man of great courage to do what he did today. I’m happy for him. He’s going to be able to be the complete Jason Collins every day for the rest of his life.

“I think he probably knows what he signed up for. He’s going to face a whole bunch more television cameras and reporters than he probably has over the course of the last couple seasons. But clearly, it’s somebody who’s given this a lot of thought. He’s prepared for it and it’s what he signed up for. There’s been a lot of speculation about when, who, how (an athlete from any of the major sports would come out). And that speculation’s been put to rest now and we’ll always remember that Jason Collins was the first player to do this.”

Asked whether Collins, who becomes a free agent on July 1, will have more trouble finding landing a contract, Welts said, “If he can convince a coach and general manager that he can play and help their team, he’ll have another job…. It’ll all be what he can do on the court.”

Welts, who runs business operations for the Warriors and has no voice in basketball decisions, was pressed: How can he be so convinced the decision by teams whether or not to pursue Collins will not be strictly about on the court?

“I just think that’s where we are,” Welts said. “We’re lacking behind where our society is on this issue. To some degree, we caught up a little bit today.”

Warriors coach Mark Jackson, meanwhile, walked a very fine line when asked about Collins’ announcement, showing support for Collins without compromising his own beliefs.

“I will say this,” Jackson said. “We live in a country that allows you to be whoever you want to be. As a Christian man, I serve a God that gives you free will to be who you want to be. As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family, and am certainly praying for them at this time.”

When asked if Collins will face a stigma around the league and within locker rooms if Collins is signed for next season, Jackson said, “That’s not for me to answer.” In fact, a former veteran player and current coach is exactly the person to answer. Plus, Jackson was an analyst for Nets television broadcasts when Collins played there, and Jackson was a Jazz teammate of John Amaechi before Amaechi came out after retiring.

“It’s something that obviously being around Jason, and I played with John Amaechi in Utah, that there’s a reason why in these situation these players are at the end (of their career) or done,” Jackson said. “So obviously that answers itself. Right, wrong or indifferent, it is something that’s new to people.”

17 Comments

  1. JimD54 says:

    Collins is a seven footer who has played for over a decade and has a career scoring average of less than 4 points a game, he has gotten more attention in this last week than he has in his entire tenure in the NBA…. Who he sleeps with is no body’s business but his and his other, why is this getting so much press?

  2. huggy55 says:

    This day and age where every one accepts all the different mental illnesses is beyond me.

  3. iivviiccaa79 says:

    I am liberal but this Collins thing is getting annoying…what’s next, reality show, “How I live my gay life and play ball”…boring..

  4. PatG says:

    Maro,

    It has nothing to do with talking about their sex lives.

    I’m sure players bring their wives to games. Maybe he would like to bring a significant other too. The question has always been “will that be accepted”? Times are changing and it’s time for sports to change too! I have a great deal of respect for Jason Collins and all of the sports figures who tweeted their support for him! It brought a tear to my eye and I’m not even gay!

  5. Rachel says:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions, even Mark Jackson. I’m so tired of people complaining when people don’t agree with homosexuality. That’s their choice, move on.

    • qwfrshgfjnd says:

      Mark Jackson is a good example of how to treat something that conflicts with your beliefs respectfully. The problem is a lot people with the same beliefs as his don’t react like him.

    • AJ Mills says:

      You’re right, everyone is entitled to an opinion. So when someone puts their opinion out there, as Mark Jackson did (sort of), other people can offer THEIR opinions on his statement.

      I’ll really never understand comments like this one–being entitled to an opinion doesn’t mean you’re immune to criticism. It goes both ways, Rachel.

  6. St. Lou says:

    Just lost a little respect for Mark Jackson. The only reason I don’t say I lost a lot of respect is how delicately he chose to vocalize his heterosexism.

  7. Taylor says:

    Didn’t Mark Jackson get caught cheating on his wife? He claims to be a Christian man? How is he going to judge someone else’s version of Christianity.

    • Neil Young says:

      Because that’s what they do. Cheating doesn’t seem to matter as much as sexuality.

    • Eli. Odell J. says:

      version of christianity?!?
      i’m sorry bud but there’s only one version of christianity and thats set forth in the holy scriptures
      i dont know what the man is but he aint no christian
      to break your sacred vows to your wife and become an adulterer puts em in much the same book
      but i imagine jackson’s at least penitent

      • Taylor says:

        Well he certainly claims to be and judges Jason Collins for being gay. So yes, the Mark Jackson version! You don’t imagine anything because you have no idea.

        Are there any “true” Christian then? (none exist, if you follow one scripture you must follow them ALL, don’t pick and choose those that suit you ie those who mix fabrics, work on the sabbath, etc)

  8. Maro says:

    So now all NBA players will be telling what position and with whom in bed they prefer ??
    Sexuality should be left at home. If think it’s not about courage but about money from adv on which now Collins counts.

    • AJ Mills says:

      If your heterosexuality is only about who you sleep with–not about love and relationships as well–I feel sorry for you.

      I’m glad for Jason Collins that he can now be open about relationships in his life.

  9. doc williamson says:

    If the guy can play I could care less what his sexuality is. Same as a soldier, as long as he’s shooting at the enemy next to me hes my bro….

  10. Im not so sure about the whole christian thing, it took a lot of courage for him to come out now, would have been some serious balls if he did it years ago…..