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Tim Cook is now 'a true legend': NBA's Jason Collins

Apple CEO Tim Cook's decision earlier this week to publicy acknowledge that he is gay has been greeted with its share of critics and supporters, but it's still too soon to measure its impact on the company in the U.S. and abroad.

But openly gay NBA player Jason Collins told CNBC Friday that the outcome can only be positive.

In Cook's Bloomberg op-ed, he writes, "Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products."

Cook has solidified his place in the tech industry. But the CEO admitted the importance of using his position as a platform to give hope to others who face workplace discrimination.

Collins, who made headlines in 2013 when he publicly disclosed his sexual orientation and became the first openly gay active NBA player, echoed Cook's point.

"It's important for business leaders [and] all leaders in society to live their authentic life" and encourage other leaders to do the same, Collins told CNBC. "He's a true legend… I'm very proud of him for doing that."

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Juan Battle, a sociology professor at Graduate Center of the City University of New York, has given numerous lectures about why it's important to facilitate open discussions about sexuality and social injustice.

"What a CEO does concerning their personal sexual orientation probably won't have much of an effect on the company," Battle said via email. "As long as the company continues to make money, all will be well in the world."

And although Cook has been applauded for Thursday's op-ed, the admission still raises questions about what this means for employers and employees who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).

"He's chief executive of the Fortune One. Something has consequences because of who does it, and this is Tim Cook and Apple. This will resonate powerfully," Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein told The New York Times.

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Collins noted, however, a person could still be fired in 29 states just for "being a member of the LGBT community."

In Cook's home state of Alabama, legislation has been slow in ensuring gay rights.

"Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation," Cook wrote in the op-ed.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Getty Images
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

"For the company's CEO to say being gay is something that he is proud of and something that has helped him [succeed]… I think is very important," Collins said.

Cook handled his disclosure differently than other industry leaders have in the past.

Former BP CEO John Browne resigned in 2007, months earlier than he had planned to do so, after a British tabloid exposed a relationship he with a former a male prostitute, according to the BBC. Years later, he wrote a book about his stifling experiences as a closeted gay executive.

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In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, Browne said "leading BP without actually telling people about myself, set up a great mirror, a great piece of glass between me and all the team."

"[If] I could have been true to myself I would have lead the company very differently," he said, adding that most board rooms are too conservative to tolerate a gay CEO.

Separately, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has often spoken against same-sex marriage, said Cook "makes his personal decisions, and that is his life. My focus is on the constitutional question of who has the authority to make decisions."

"Those are his personal choices (but) I'll tell you, I love my iPhone," Cruz told CNBC earlier this week.