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Former NBA Player Jason Collins Has Changed "Hearts and Minds" Since Telling Sports World

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Sacramento, Calif. – During an interview on Feb. 14, 2007, on a sports radio show in Miami, former NBA player Tim Hardaway wasn’t too kind about John Amaechi, another former NBA player telling the world that he was gay after he long left the league and wrote a book about his experiences.

Hardaway said that he “hate gay people” and his crude sentiments caused a whirlwind controversy that forced the NBA to banish him from the All-Star Game weekend of festivities of 2007. Hardaway did apologize for his comments no sooner than they left his lips.

Today, Hardaway is a whole lot less sensitive about the subject. Before the Detroit Pistons took on the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Jan. 10, Hardaway was seen having a respectful discussion with Jason Collins.

Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, was in town to celebrate with local LGBTQ advocates, community members and partners to the Kings’ fourth “Equality Night” – the first at G1C.

“Just walking off the court, I had a great discussion with Tim Hardaway,” Collins said. “When I came out, he was one of the guys who reached out to me with nothing but words of support and that wasn’t always the case with him. He started on the other end of the spectrum. But he has grown as a human being.”

Former NBA player Jason Collins participated the Sacramento Kings' "Equality Night" at Golden 1 Center on Jan. 10, 2017. Publicity Agents photo art by T. Ray Harvey.

Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, joined the organization as they celebrate the Sacramento LGBTQ community accomplishments and salute their ongoing work.

Collins retired from playing professionally after playing in the league for 13 years and revealed that he was gay in May 2013 through an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated. His revelation opened the door for other gay athletes.

In the first nine words of the article Collins declared he was gay and was “happy to start the conversation,” something at that time no one had done professionally in the sport of baseball, football, hockey, or basketball.

At the moment, the discussion continues. Collins works for the NBA and he travels around the world sharing his story and providing support to other who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender. He also calms the fear of others who have not warmed up to others’ sexual orientation.

There are still athletes, professionally and collegiately, who have not came out or will never reveal that they are gay, Collins alluded too. It’s an area that still commands privacy.

“Sometimes we talk just about sports or LGBT issues,” Collins said of the athletes that he is in contact, but remain in the closet. “I can talk about basketball all day. But it’s about being there for someone and in that support system for them. I do encourage them to live their authentic life. But at the same time I do understand that everybody is on their own path.”

Through a partnership between the Sacramento Kings Foundation and The California Endowment, Collins began his day at Will C. Wood Middle School in south Sacramento, where the “Love for the Win Club” supports LGBTQ students.

Students were able to ask Collins about his journey and experience as, college student at Stanford University, an NBA player and his role as an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

G1c was programmed throughout the night with special salutes, concourse activations, giveaways, and a unique halftime entertainment selection that looked back at Sacramento’s 2016 Pride Parade.

“It is incredibly important that we can use the power of the NBA’s platform to reach new audiences and help serve as an agent of social change in our community,’ said Kings President Chris Granger. “I’m thrilled about how we’ve all come together – as a community – to create a great night for everyone.”

The Sacramento Kings have a continued history of serving the region’s diverse organizations and groups, enhancing the lives of the people we engage and making the world a better place.

Every year, they join forces with The California Endowment for the Sacramento Pride Parade to support Sacramento’s LGBT community and the advocates who strive for a more inclusive society.

“One of the most powerful thing is when we do tell our stories and able to change someone’s heart and mind,” said Collins, who works for NBA Cares. “It’s great to see part of the NBA family grow and develop as human beings because we’re all brothers out here.”

By T. Ray Harvey | PA Public Information Officer and Photographic Artist

T. Ray (Antonio) Harvey is a Public Information Officer and Photographic Artist for Publicity Agents. Harvey is also the author of The HOMICIDAL HANDYMAN OF OAK PARK: MORRIS SOLOMON JR.

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