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Athletes' Sexual Orientation Shouldn't Prevent Deals, Poll Says

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Eighty-nine percent of Americans said athletes’ sexual preference shouldn’t determine whether they are offered contracts, according to a poll by Seton Hall University.

Six percent of 780 respondents across the U.S. polled by telephone from Feb. 24-26 said sexual preference should be considered, while 5 percent were undecided or refused to answer, the South Orange, New Jersey-based school said in a news release.

National Basketball Association veteran Jason Collins, who came out as gay last April, four days ago signed a 10-day contract to play for the New Jersey Nets, becoming the first active openly gay player among the four major U.S. sports. Seventy-six percent of those polled felt the Nets won’t regret the signing, while 10 percent said the team would regret it.

“This is a here-and-now issue for sports,” Rick Gentile, who directs the poll, said in a statement. “And leagues should note that for the fans, it has already been decided -- it is a non-issue.”

Fans have shown support for Collins. Merchandise bearing his name and jersey No. 98 were four of the top five best-sellers yesterday, according to the league.

Collins, 35, was signed two weeks after University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam said he was gay. Sam will be available for the National Football League draft in May after finishing his college career as the Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Respondents were split on whether Sam’s disclosure would hurt him in the draft, with 40 percent saying it wouldn’t cause him to be drafted lower and 38 percent saying it would.

The poll, which is sponsored by the Sharkey Institute, has a 3.6 percent margin of error.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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