DETROIT -- Phil Coke doesn't know NBA player Jason Collins, but he now knows of his story. He doesn't believe it's his position to make a judgment. But after reading about Collins' decision to come out publicly as a gay professional athlete, he expressed an abundance of respect for Collins.
"My job is to make sure I'm being the best human being I can myself, and not worry about what you're doing, or what he's doing, or what they're doing," Coke said. "At the end of the day, it's about what I'm doing in my own right with whatever decisions I've chosen to make in my life. And the man decided that it was time for him to move the curtain and be like, 'Hey, this is me, and I'm not hiding behind a façade anymore.'
"So you have to tip your cap to the man. You have to, because that takes a lot more to do that than hiding behind a curtain. Anybody can hide behind a curtain and act the way they think other people think they should act. It takes a lot for you to step outside the box. We don't scrutinize people for the organizations that they represent or anything like that. Why would we scrutinize an individual that is a professional athlete? Why would we scrutinize him for his preferences?"
It's not his role or anyone's, Coke said, to make any moral judgment other than commend the courage to make an announcement when no one else has in the middle of a career.
"This is a topic that needs to be hashed out, just as every other major issue that has faced us as a society," Coke said. "This is an important thing to a lot of people. It's a big deal today. He's a free agent going into the summer and he's looking for a job. He wore No. 98 this year representing the hate crimes of '98. You have to respect a man for standing up for what he believes and [for] himself in the same right."