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Graphic of Jason Collin's
The press was all over openly gay basketball player Jason Collins signing on with the Brooklyn Nets today. In doing so, Collins broke ground by becoming the first openly gay athlete in American sports to close a contract outside of closet doors. That in and of itself is incredible news as it represents a turn towards a more inclusive and welcoming moment for LGBT people in an arena that has been historically hostile to us.

However this story just took a very interesting turn, making it both a domestic milestone as well as an international story. Joe. My. God has an interesting piece up that may be a mere coincidence or an intentional middle finger pointed directly at Vladimir Putin for his calculated decision to scapegoat gay people in his country.

The owner of the Brooklyn Nets is Russian banking and mining billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. In 2012 he ran for the Russian presidency against Vladimir Putin and won 8% of the vote. When he announced his candidacy in 2011, the NBA ruled that he could be president of Russia and still own an NBA team, citing the precedent of then-sitting US Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who owns the Milwaukee Bucks. Prokhorov, 49, is also the head of the Russian Biathlon Union and yesterday he guided Russia's team to a gold medal. Prokhorov has campaigned for LGBT rights in Russia and last year declared, "It is a personal affair who has sex with whom." Some are speculating that the hiring of Jason Collins is a middle finger from Prokhorov to Putin.
I have difficulty believing that a former challenger to Putin, an advocate for Russian LGBT rights, and the owner of the team that signed on Collins didn't intentionally make a statement to both the United States and to Russia that the time for bigotry is over and the time for celebrating human achievement trumps hate.

I don't know a lot about basketball and consequently was introduced to both Jason Collins and Mikhail Prokhorov today. But my hat is off to both of these gentlemen and the world has gained a new fan of the sport.

Go team!

Originally posted to Steven Payne on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 05:46 PM PST.

Also republished by The Wide World of Sports and LGBT Rights are Human Rights.

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