Networks Hype 'History-Making Moment for the NBA' After Jason Collins Plays for 10 Minutes
Despite openly gay NBA player Jason Collins only spending 10 minutes on
the court during a game Sunday night, all three network morning shows
on Monday hailed his non-scoring time off the bench as a momentous
occasion. On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos proclaimed: "A history-making moment in the NBA. Jason Collins broke through a big barrier last night
when he suited up for the Brooklyn Nets against the Lakers, becoming
the first openly gay player in any of the four major pro-leagues." [Listen to the audio]
On NBC's Today, co-host Matt Lauer announced: "History was made...last night in a basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers." In the report that followed, 9 a.m. co-host Willie Geist gushed: "History on the basketball court Sunday night, when 35-year-old Jason Collins became the first openly gay male athlete to play in any of the four major professional U.S. sports."
Unlike the full reports on ABC and NBC, CBS This Morning
only gave a news brief to the topic, with co-host Norah O'Donnell
declaring: "This morning Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins is proud of
two accomplishments. His new team won last night and he made history as the first openly gay player in the NBA."
Geist touted Collins's activism: "After one game wearing 46, Collins will play in jersey number 98. In honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay teen who was murdered in a notorious hate crime in 1998. A symbolic message of tolerance Collins hopes will spread through sports."
On GMA, news reader Josh Elliott was thrilled: "I do want to say, never been happier watching the Lakers lose than last night. I'll tell you that. Congratulations to you, Jason Collins."
All three shows mentioned the short period of time Collins actually played and the fact that he had only signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, but none of broadcasts let that get in the way of their "historic" narrative.
ABC correspondent John Muller asserted: "He played for just ten minutes, but there is no doubt Jason Collins's performance will go down in history." Stephanopoulos later added that Collins "did his part last night."
On NBC, Geist and Lauer spun it this way:
GEIST: The line for Collins, 11 minutes, two rebounds, took one shot, missed it, five fouls for him in 11 minutes, which is exactly the way he plays.
LAUER: What he does, that's exactly right.
GEIST: He's a bruiser.
As the New York Times explained
on Sunday, "N.B.A.'s 10-Day Contract Is Essentially a Job-Tryout," not
exactly good news for a player who's been in the league for 13 years.
The Times' Benjamin Hoffman noted: "The contracts, while useful, are rarely a source of much production and are instead used to fill out rosters when injuries occur. Throughout the years, there have been some success stories, like Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen, Anthony Mason and Kurt Rambis, but they are outliers."
When Collins first came out in 2013, the networks eagerly cheered the news with wall-to-wall coverage:
NBC Pundit: Jason Collins Like 'Rosa Parks,' A 'Gay Hero' Starting A 'Movement'
ABC Celebrates Gay NBA Player, Still Ignores Gosnell
'Face the Nation' Spends 30 Minutes on Gay NBA Player, Still No Mention of Gosnell
They did the same when college football player and NFL prospect Michael Sam came out in February.
— Kyle Drennen is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.