The First Active Male Athlete In Major American Professional Sports Has Come Out As Gay

Jason Collins, a 34-year-old center who played last season for the Washington Wizards, just came out as gay in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.

Jason Collins, a 34-year-old center with 12 years’ experience in the NBA, just came out as gay in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.

Via Twitter: @SInow

You can read Collins’ story, which he co-wrote with Franz Lidz, here. The major line?

Collins also wrote that the March arguments in the Supreme Court over same-sex marriage drove him to publicize his sexuality. “Less than three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future,” he wrote. “Here was my chance to be heard and I couldn’t say a thing. I didn’t want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.”

Collins also wrote that his grandmother was nervous about his coming out publicly because of the prejudice and hatred it might draw, but that he didn’t want to live in fear of his sexuality being revealed. “The announcement should be mine to make, not TMZ’s.”

Collins is on Twitter at @jasoncollins34. His most recent tweet was a retweet of his brother Jarron:

Since being drafted in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft out of Stanford, where he played with Jarron, Collins has played for six professional teams, including six-and-a-half seasons with the New Jersey Nets, which were the most productive of his career. Most recently, he played 54 minutes for the Washington Wizards during the 2012-13 season; he is currently not under contract with an NBA team. He was best-known for much of his career for being one of the few players in the league able to effectively defend Dwight Howard (although that was a bit overinflated). Obviously, he’ll now be known for other things.

Collins follows John Amaechi, who came out as gay in 2007, three years after retiring from the NBA. Amaechi has tweeted today about Collins’ announcement.

Congratulations to Jason - society couldn't hope for a more eloquent & positive role model:

— JohnAmaechi (@John Amaechi OBE)

Collins’ announcement also comes just two weeks after openly gay basketball player Brittney Griner went first overall in the WNBA Draft. Griner also just became the first gay athlete to sign with Nike.

It now remains to be seen whether Collins, who wore the number 98 to honor Matthew Shepard, will play this year in the NBA. He is not currently under contract with any team, and since being traded from the Nets to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, he’s received inconsistent minutes for five different teams. At 34 years old, he is also reaching what is naturally the age at which most professional basketball players lose effectiveness.

The NBA issued a statement over Twitter in support of Collins.

NBA Commissioner David Stern statement re: Washington Wizards center Jason Collins announcement today: (1/4)

— NBA (@NBA)

“As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 (2/4)

— NBA (@NBA)

and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout (3/4)

— NBA (@NBA)

his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.” #NBAFamily (4/4)

— NBA (@NBA)

Collins’ agent, Arn Tellem, wrote for Sports Illustrated that he believes another NBA team will sign Collins, and he quoted Collins’ former coach, the Boston Celtics’ Doc Rivers, calling him “literally one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach.” And Jarron, Jason’s twin brother, also wrote something for S.I. saying that he didn’t know Jason was gay until late last summer, when Jason told him.

GLAAD also issued a statement in support of Collins, along with this ad:

NEW YORK, NY, APRIL 29, 2013 - GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization released a statement today following news that NBA center Jason Collins came out as gay in an essay appearing in the May 6th issue of Sports Illustrated. Collins’ coming out makes him the first active gay male pro athlete in the history of America’s major leagues.

“‘Courage’ and ‘inspiration’ are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context,” said Aaron McQuade, head of GLAAD’s sports program. “We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero.”
Last year, GLAAD teamed up with Athlete Ally to provide a training on LGBT issues to the NBA rookie camps. The NBA has also participated in GLAAD’s Spirit Day for two years, turning the league’s twitter photo purple as a symbol of support for LGBT young people and to take a stand against bullying.
On May 11, 2013, the San Francisco Giants will become the first professional sports team to receive a GLAAD Media Award at the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco.

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