New Sports Illustrated poll examines reader reaction to first NBA gay

Sports Illustrated asks readers to respond to Jason Collins' coming-out announcement. Photo:

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2013 — In historic professional sports news this week, a well-known NBA veteran came out as gay. In an article in this week’s Sports IllustratedJason Collins, a 12-year basketball veteran and former Stanford player, explained in very simple terms who he was. “ I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

For the past few months, the professional sports world has been buzzing with rumors that an NFL player was close to coming out. Whether or not those rumors are true, Jason Collins apparently decided now was the time to begin living a life that authenticates both his career in the NBA and his private life.

Another part of the story is that even his twin brother, Jarron Collins, was surprised, which shows just how hidden Jason Collins kept his sexuality.

Sports Illustrated, in order to capture reader reactions to Collins’ announcement, posted a poll on their website. Below are the most current responses. Analysis of those responses follows the poll.

What is your reaction to Jason Collins’ announcement?

53% — Positive step for pro sports

27% Sexual orientation shouldn’t be major news

12% I don’t agree with his lifestyle

 8% I’m indifferent about it


How would you react if a player on your favorite team came out?

75% Announcement would have no impact

18% I’d be more inclined to root for the team

7% I’d less inclined to root for the team


Will more pro athletes come out in 2013?

85% Yes

15% No


Which pro team sport will be the next to have an openly gay player?

42% NFL

27% MLB


6% NHL


Would most pro athletes welcome a gay teammate?

65% Yes

35% No


Would most college athletes welcome a gay teammate?

64% Yes

36% No


Would your opinion of an athlete change if he or she came out?

78% No

22% Yes


Should leagues suspend pro athletes who utter homophobic slurs?

61% Yes

39% No


Should universities suspend college athletes who utter homophobic slurs?

64% Yes

36% No


Which pro sports entity would be the least tolerant of gay athletes?

44% NFL

27% UFC

15% NHL

10% MLB

2% NBA

1% MLS


Which pro sports entity would be the most tolerant of gay athletes?

39% MLS

28% NBA

16% MLB

10% NHL

4% NFL

3% UFC


If a top-rated pro prospect came out before the draft, how much would the revelation hurt him?

54% A little

24% Not at all

22% A lot 

Read More:

This poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general nor the public as a whole.
Read More:

To best understand the readers’ reactions to homosexuality in pro sports (and not how well they might predict how professional leagues or universities might react), Questions 1-2, 7, and 8-9 are quite telling.

According to reactions to Question 1, 80% of respondents found that either it was a positive step for pro sports or it really should not matter so much. However, 12% expressed their disapproval of the “gay lifestyle” and 8% remained indifferent. Given that an “indifferent” reaction could be encompassed in the answer “Sexual orientation should not be major news,” it’s possible that the respondents who remained indifferent are unable to admit to homophobia…or maybe to tolerance.

Question 2 asked how fans would react to a player on their favorite team coming out. Ninety-three percent responded that they would either not change their fan level or they would root more for their team. A small group of 7% said they would be less inclined to root for their team. Interestingly, since 12-20% of the answers to Question 1 indicate disapproving or non-committal attitudes, 5-13% of those fans would still root for their team – their fan loyalty out-weighed their disapproval.

Question 7 asks if the respondents’ opinion of a player (not the team) would change if the player came out. Seventy-eight percent indicated that their opinion wouldn’t change. However, it’s unclear whether the remaining 22% of respondents would change their opinions favorably or unfavorably.

Questions 8 and 9 ask whether the respondents believe leagues and universities should sanction players who utter homophobic slurs. A majority in both questions (61% and 64%, respectively) indicate that sanctions should be meted out if fellow players express intolerance.

One important concept within sportsmanship is respect for teammates. So it appears that the Sports Illustrated poll shows a trend in the right direction; fans/respondents believe that some consequence should come of continued homophobia within a team. Overwhelmingly, though, they indicated that Jason Collins’ announcement was positive and, perhaps, not that big of a deal.

After all, it is 2013. It is a game. And it is time.


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Jenni McNamara

With over ten years’ experience in the youth sports as a parent, coach, administrator, and fan, Jenni McNamara has seen how good sportsmanship can positively affect kids and families, but also how poor sportsmanship can have a devastating impact on their physical and emotional health.

As a volunteer with USLacrosse, first on its Youth Council and now on its Board Development Committee, Jenni has seen a national trend toward integrating sportsmanship into activities at the youngest ages. Her company, CHILL Manager ™, provides tools for organizations looking to enhance their sportsmanship efforts.

She writes a blog on sportsmanship at and her training information can be found on her website:


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