The West Fourth Street basketball courts in Greenwich Village, known far and wide as the Cage, draw some of the toughest and best streetball players from across the city. And on Tuesday, as the sporting world absorbed the news that the journeymen N.B.A. center Jason Collins had come out as gay, the denizens of the Cage said, by and large, that it made no difference to them.
“His personal life is his own,” said a 60-year-old man who goes by the name Coach and has been playing and coaching at West Fourth Street for 30 years. “Nobody can tell me who in the morning I’m going to get up and smell their breath. We’ve raised gay people here. No jokes, no discrimination. I’ll critique your game but not your personal life.”
Across the East River at the Rodney Park North courts on the south side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the reaction was much the same.
Here are some voices from the two courts:
From the Cage:
“There are a lot of gay players here but the only ones who admit it are the girls. But, still, today is better than yesterday for them.” – Vince, a coach and player from Jersey City in his 50s.
“It’s a great start, but they need a bigger star who’s more relevant to come out to really make a difference.” — Michael Watson, 23, who lives in Manhattan and works in a nightclub.
“I’d still play with him. I wouldn’t shower with him, though.” — Joseph Washington, 24, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
“I just finished playing with a gay guy here. It doesn’t change anything. He’s not changing the United States anyway, because everybody is going to have different views.” — Stephen Williams, 22, of the Bronx.
“He’s his own person. You got to be true to yourself sometimes. If he’s O.K. with it, everyone else should be,” — Shariff Webb, 21, of Queens.
From the Rodney Park courts in Williamsburg:
“It’s just something he’s had throughout his childhood, I don’t see nothing wrong with that. This is what Hollywood, the media, celebrities, does. But really it’s no big deal.” — Wady Capellan, 19.
“As long as he respects boundaries, it shouldn’t affect the basketball court.” — Bill Baez, 19.
“This is the South Side. We see gay people walking around all the time. It’s normal. If you’re gay, you’re gay.” — Ruder Perez, 17.