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Celtics coach Doc Rivers ‘proud of’ Jason Collins

04.29.13 at 2:09 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers issued this statement after former C’s center Jason Collins became the first openly gay active player in major American sports:

“I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’€™s a pro’€™s pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite ‘team’ players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be. It’s not up to you, it’€™s just me being me.’”

Outing himself in this Sports Illustrated article, Collins quoted Rivers: “If you want to go quickly, go by yourself — if you want to go farther, go in a group.”

As recently as three weeks ago, Rivers discussed the inevitability of an openly gay NBA player. ‘€œThere’€™ll be a lot of talk about it, and then I think it will go away,’€ Rivers said before a Celtics practice on April 9, the day after he took the team to watch the “42″ film about Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.

SI’s Ian Thomsen caught up with Rivers after Collins’ announcement on Monday.

“He is terrific,” Rivers told Thomsen. “Losing him was hard for me because I just thought he was such a great teammate and such a great guy in the locker room. That’s what you want is those guys in your locker room.”

The C’s reportedly tried to ship Chris Wilcox to the Wizards in exchanged for Jordan Crawford but instead dealt Collins because Wilcox had the right to consent to the deal. Here’s what else Rivers told SI:

  • “I remember one time in a timeout, I asked the question of Jason — ‘You know you have to do this’ on a certain play, and he said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ And in the huddle [Rajon] Rondo said, ‘Don’t ever question Jason Collins — if anybody knows the other team’s stuff, it’s Jason Collins.’ And the other guys started laughing. It was really cool, the sign of the fact that he was so prepared and everyone knew it.”
  • “I’m really proud of Jason. He still can play. He’ll be active in our league, I hope, and we can get by this — get past this. I think it would be terrific for the league. More than anything, it would just be terrific for mankind.”
  • “I don’t think this will be a teammate thing. I think eventually it will be a thing where fans will learn to be more tolerant. Then it will go away. You rarely hear any racial slurring in the crowd anymore, but you did — you used to when Jackie first played. But it went away. I think it will be the same in this case.”
  • “I could care less. Why do so many people care? It’s no one’s business what you do. I’ve always felt that way and I’ve always had a strong belief about that — that it’s your preference, and so what? You can like who you choose to like, and you can love who you choose to love. That’s the way it should be. The thing that should be celebrated is that two people love each other, and that’s a good thing.”

Celtics assistant coach Kevin Eastman also declared his support for Collins on Twitter.

Likewise, Celtics guard Terrence Williams, who played one game in green before Collins was dealt to the Wizards at the trade deadline, voiced his support on Twitter.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jason Collins, NBA
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