That Media Circus That Was Supposed to Be Following Jason Collins? It Doesn’t Exist.

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
March 3 2014 7:15 PM

That Media Circus That Was Supposed to Be Following Jason Collins? It Doesn’t Exist.

475455665-jason-collins-of-the-brooklyn-nets-celebrates-after
Jason Collins, No. 98, celebrates with Brooklyn Nets teammate Alan Anderson after making a basket against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 27, 2014.

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

One of the most heartening things about Jason Collins’ signing with the Brooklyn Nets was that everyone on his new team instantly embraced the backup center. The only word of caution came from guard Deron Williams, who noted, “I think it’s definitely going to be a media circus.” Williams continued by saying it wasn’t Collins’ fault, but “it’s just the media coming along with it, because every city you go to, it’s not just like you answer a question once and then it’s over with. It’s a recurring thing.”

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

Oh, that distracting media circus. Lions! Tigers! Digital recorders! Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News wrote that by signing Collins, the Nets are “going to be inviting the media circus to come their way. Do they really need that?” Dan Levy of Bleacher Report also invoked the big top, arguing that “the media circus that was certain to follow [Collins’] signing very well may have precluded teams from taking a serious look at signing him in the offseason.”

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Today, on the occasion of Collins’ home debut as a Brooklyn Net, it’s worth measuring the scope of that media circus. I searched Lexis-Nexis for all English-language news stories with “Jason Collins” in the headline. Here are the day-by-day results since Feb. 22, the day before Collins signed with Brooklyn.

Feb. 22: 2
Feb. 23 (Collins signs with the Nets, plays against the Lakers): 57
Feb. 24 (the day after Collins’ first game): 116
Feb. 25: 10
Feb. 26 (Collins’ second game): 7
Feb. 27 (Collins’ third game): 4
Feb. 28 (Collins meets Matthew Shepard's parents): 31
Mar. 1 (Collins’ fourth game): 4
Mar. 2: 6
Mar. 3 (Collins' Brooklyn debut): 7

Here’s another view, via Google Trends, showing interest in “Jason Collins” as a search term over the last 30 days.

Interest in “Jason Collins” as a search term over the last 30 days, via Google Trends.

Huh. It’s almost like that media circus, the one that was going to be such a distraction to whatever team signed an openly gay player, doesn’t really exist. This is a very good thing, and it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Collins’ debut as an openly gay player was a historic occasion, and it was written about as such. Now that he’s an NBA player getting 8.5 minutes per game, he’s being treated like an NBA player who’s getting 8.5 minutes per game. And that’s how it should be. All of those NFL executives who are so concerned about the “media circus that likely will surround Michael Sam” might want to take note.

If there is a media circus—perhaps it’s a flea circus that’s undetectable to the naked eye—the Nets at least don’t seem to be bothered by it: They’re signing Collins to another 10-day contract. On Monday, Collins did face a few more cameras as he prepared to make his home debut. “Over time I expect it to [die down]," he said of the recent media interest, according to ESPN New York. That’s certainly true, but the graph above tells a slightly different story: Jason Collins is already old news.

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

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