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Phoenix Suns’ Jeff Hornacek: Gay player in NBA ‘wouldn’t be that big a deal’

LISTEN: Jeff Hornacek, Suns Head Coach

Just a little more than two months away from the NFL Draft, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced publicly that he is gay.

When Sam hears his name called during the draft in May, he’ll become the first active openly gay player in the NFL.

Much of the talk on the subject centers around the fact that pretty much everyone knows that there are gay athletes in all leagues, but very few have announced their sexuality. This makes Sam’s actions, especially considering he’s at the beginning of his career, historic.

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek thinks the National Basketball Association is ready for an openly gay player.

“I think so,” Hornacek told Doug and Wolf during their annual Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “If you can look back to when I was playing, maybe 25 or 30 years ago, maybe it would have been different.”

While no active NBA player has come out of the closet during his career, Hornacek thinks an event that happened over 23 years ago largely changed the mindset of the league.

“When Magic Johnson came out with HIV, they thought it was going to be a big deal — and maybe there were a couple of guys it was going to be a big deal for, but really guys are just athletes, football players, whatever.

“In today’s world, I really don’t think it’s that big a deal anymore.”

Johnson came back to the league after a four-year layoff in 1996, playing in 32 games for the Lakers while averaging 14.6 points and 6.9 assists per contest.

Veteran big man Jason Collins announced he is gay last April at the conclusion of the regular season, but remains a free agent. Nobody’s certain if Collins’ announcement or his age (35) is the reason why he’s no longer in the league.

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