Update: Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 7:45 p.m. by Joe Flynn
It would appear that the Collins' marketability is already translating into sales. Per The Wall Street Journal's Alex Raskin:
A league spokesperson just told me that Jason Collins' jersey was the top seller today for the NBA Store and its website. #nets— Alex Raskin (@alexraskinNYC) February 26, 2014
Seth Berkman of the New York Times reported Monday on the tidal wave of demand for everything Jason Collins:
Vicky Picca, the N.B.A.’s senior vice president for licensing and business affairs, used the word “unprecedented” Monday to describe the inquiries from people interested in buying something with Collins’s name on it.
Others are already trying to profit from Collins’s popularity. Game-used Collins jerseys from his previous teams were on eBay on Monday afternoon, with prices listed as high as $335.
This is an extraordinary show of support for the Brooklyn big man.
---End of update---
Per ESPN's Darren Rovell:
NBA to sell Jason Collins jerseys including women's & kids. Not common for player on 10-day deal pic.twitter.com/uafzxnIkm2— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) February 24, 2014
On the one hand, it's terrific the Nets are creating what are essentially souvenirs for a historic NBA event. Collins is the NBA's first active, openly gay athlete, and his spot on the roster is certainly something worth commemorating.
Plus, his jersey is likely to become a symbol for people who want to support him and the social progress he represents.
On the other, the Nets have taken a wholly pragmatic view of their decision to sign Collins from the start. General manager Billy King told Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated: "The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision. We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract."
It'd be somewhat insulting to Collins to say anything different. He's not a sideshow, he's a basketball player who brings value to Brooklyn's roster. But if we assume a similarly pragmatic approach is behind the decision to sell Collins' replica jerseys, it's not hard to see another possible motivator.
The symbolic value of Collins' jersey is profound, but its literal value is also what the Nets must be aware of. Those jerseys are going to fly off the shelves.
Perhaps Brooklyn won't recover quite enough money to offset its $100 million tax bill, but raking in big bucks on a historic jersey certainly won't hurt.
Ultimately, we can't know which factor—appreciation for history or money—truly motivated the decision to sell jerseys of a player who might not be on the roster for long. Really though, who cares?
Collins is a historic figure, no matter how much he and the Nets would prefer he be viewed as nothing more than a basketball player. It makes sense to allow fans and supporters to buy a piece of that history.