Jason Collins, the first openly gay, active player in the NBA, is the owner of the top selling jersey on NBA.com, as his No. 98 Brooklyn Nets jersey is a top seller according to a report by CNN on Feb. 26.
The sales makes Collins the NBA’s most popular player this week. Just last week, Collins wasn’t even on an NBA roster, but when the Brooklyn Nets signed him to a 10-day contract, the 35-year-old completed his footprint in history by becoming the first player in one of North America’s four major sports leagues to play in a game.
This doesn’t mean the backup center is more popular than NBA stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin. The sales are more representative of the interest Collins has earned since announcing he is gay and public perception on whether professional sports are ready for gay athletes. NBA Senior Vice President Vicky Picca said the sales are an indication of how fans support Collins.
“Jason Collins’ return to the league represents a historic moment, and fans continue to show their support by (buying) Jason’s jersey.”
Throughout his 12-year career Jason Collins hasn’t received as much attention as he has received now, but by becoming a symbol for the gay rights movement, Collins has become a person other players look to for inspiration and an individual who has shown courage and strength.
But there is a greater symbolism to the growth in sales of Collins’ No. 98 jersey. While a member of the Boston Celtics in 2012, Collins said he chose 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student beaten to death in 1998. He starting wearing the number as a reminder of “notorious antigay hate crime” and also to make a statement to himself on the struggle he has faced that eventually led to him coming out.
The jersey now symbolizes acceptance.
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