Even on Bench, Jason Collins Gets Support From Fans in Miami

Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins made his debut in Miami Wednesday since coming out as the NBA's first openly gay player.

The Nets took the game against the Heat 96-95. Though Collins did not play, fans in the stands were still dissecting his skills and not his sexuality.

"I don't think it's a big deal," said Heat fan Jonathan Pringle. "I think everybody has the freedom to be their sexual preference. So, to me, it's not a big deal."

"He's in the latter part of his career, he's a little older," pointed out Ryan Baker, who was wearing a Heat jersey. "[Collins] is playing okay. I mean, he's hustling out there."

Baker's ribbing was aimed at his buddy and Nets fan Clay Mazurek, who said he's been a Collins fan since the 7-footer's first run with the Nets more than a decade ago.

"To see him come back, and open up, and support gay rights. I mean, it's big,” Mazurek said.

Nearby, Nets fan Peter Porto recalled that Collins had taken the then-New Jersey Jets far into the playoffs before.

"He went to the Finals two times," Porto said. "That's good anyway. That doesn't matter that he's gay or not."

Collins' all-around rousing reception is hope for many that more pro athletes won't have to hide who they really are, said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida.

"Every time someone like Jason Collins comes out, it tears down those walls and encourages people to get beyond past biases," Pollitzer said.

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