A segment of Orlando’s gay community, seated in Section 220, will be cheering for Brooklyn’s backup center when the Nets play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at the Amway Center. Jeff Kunerth reports for the Orlando Sentinel.
Orlando’s gay community center has reserved 40 seats in the upper bowl of the Amway Center in support of Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in any of the four major professional sports.
Collins, 35, announced he was gay after the 2013 season. He was an unsigned free agent when the current season began and wasn’t signed by the Nets until Feb. 23. That same day, he played for 11 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming the first openly gay player in the NBA.
The 7-foot Collins wears jersey No. 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student murdered in 1998.
Stephens says he will be rooting for the Magic, but he now follows the Nets as well.
“I’m an Orlando Magic fan, but part of me is following the Brooklyn Nets now,” he said. “I pay attention to see how the Brooklyn Nets are doing.”
They are doing much better than the Magic and are sitting in the fifth spot among playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. The Magic’s record is the third-worst in the NBA.
Stephens said he doesn’t know how many of the $25 reserved seats have been sold, but with Magic attendance dwindling as the season slogs to an end, the cluster of spectators in the upper bowl cheering for Collins should be noticeable.
“When he comes into the game, we will have a banner or something welcoming him,” Stephens said. “We needed to do something like this.”