Based on character, the Bulls could be the perfect team to absorb Jason Collins into the locker room with minimum distraction next season.
This week Collins became the first openly gay male athlete active in one of America’s four major professional sports leagues.
Of course, Collins won’t be active unless a team signs him for next season. Future employment in pro sports never is a slam-dunk, so to speak, for aging backups.
So, how about the Bulls being Collins’ next team?
Resistance to a gay man on an NBA team will be less than feared but more than nonexistent. Homosexuality is a religious issue, social issue, political issue and economic issue.
Each of those is controversial. All combined potentially are explosive.
Already, Collins’ announcement drew both support and criticism on social media. He won’t need a police escort everywhere he visits around the NBA next season but will need support from his team and teammates.
The Bulls would be the right group to provide it.
Remember, Jerry Reinsdorf has been intent on creating a culture of inclusion on both the Bulls and White Sox, both in the arena and the offices.
The Bulls have had winning records due in large measure to camaraderie, which would be a primary element in making the Jason Collins season a success.
Whatever happens during the rest of these playoffs, expectations are that the Bulls will have to remake their bench again this summer.
Collins is the type of frontcourt player — 7-feet, 255 pounds, 12-year veteran, moderately talented, totally professional, inexpensive — that the Bulls have employed in recent years.
Brian Scalabrine, Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed come to mind. Collins can’t be less productive than Vladimir Radmanovic has been this season, can he be?
Any team that signs Collins will need a strong core of players focused on the next game, a coach who doesn’t care what a player’s sexual orientation is if he can be “the next man up” and an owner dedicated to equal opportunity.
Jason Collins, meet Luol Deng, Tom Thibodeau and Jerry Reinsdorf.
Collins will need their support when the heckling of a frustrated opponent, fan or journalist becomes inflammatory.
Remaining to be seen is whether the Bulls’ cohesiveness translates into incorporating the NBA’s first openly gay athlete into the locker room. But the way this team goes about business on and off the court indicates that Collins’ transition would be smoother here than in some other places even if perhaps not always comfortable.
Winning is foremost to the Bulls’ veteran leadership, and if a gay man can help them win, a good guess is there’s a locker stall waiting for him.
Regardless of what each player’s individual view of homosexuality is, the Bulls are a diverse group already with players who grew up in Chicago and New York, Iowa and Alaska, Italy and Serbia and South Sudan. They are of different races and religions, too.
They have the international activist Deng, flamboyant Nate Robinson, emotional Joakim Noah and others with varied lifestyles and life experiences.
The question on any team would be whether sexuality is more difficult to assimilate than ethnicity or race or anything else. On the surface, though, it sure does seem that the Bulls’ culture is such that there’s a place for all of them.
The final frontier of this social study would be Chicago sports fans, and a great majority of them also would accept a gay player, especially if he’s capable of contributing to winning.
If Jason Collins isn’t, Bulls fans will boo him just as they would a heterosexual player.
Ain’t equality great in the meritocracy of sports?
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