Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley became one of the many in the sports world to express his support for Jason Collins after the 12-year NBA veteran came out as gay in a first-person article in Sports Illustrated.
"I think it's a huge deal," Barkley said on Monday night during TNT's "Inside The NBA. "I'm excited for Jason."
Barkley, who has previously stated that he believes he played with gay teammates during his 16-year career, went on to explain why he was supporting Collins' decision to come out.
"I'm happy that he gets to be himself. Listen, we've all played with gay players. Everybody works with gay players. I think deep down everybody has a family member who is gay, depending on how deep down you want to reach into your family," Barkley said. "Kenny [Smith] talks about it all the time. Us, being black, we've got to always be for tolerance. I never went through what the great Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Brown and all of those guys went through. But just thinking about it, it had to be horrific. So we got to always be for tolerance and acceptance."
Barkley's TNT colleagues Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith also expressed support for Collins. They joined a large contingent of NBA players past and present, including Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd, who shared their admiration for Collins and congratulated him on his decision to come out. Concluding his remarks on a milestone day for the NBA, Barkley noted that he believes NBA players will be quicker to accept Collins than the general public and also asked for tolerance for those who are not accepting.
"I think the one thing I want to be come out of this conversation though, to be honest with you, is ... some people is not going to like this," Barkley said. "I think they should have the right to express that. We should not crucify them. I disagree with them and it's alright to disagree. But we live in this thing right now where anybody who comes out against this is going to be crucified. And I think that's unfair."