Jason Collins made headlines this morning as the first male athlete from a major U.S. professional league to announce that he is gay. The NBA free agent wrote his personal account for Sports Illustrated. In the column, co-written by Franz Lidz, Collins says he was reluctant to be the “first” openly gay athlete on the court. He wrote:
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
The 7-foot Collins is 34 and just finishing up his 12th NBA season. He’s played for six teams including the Boston Celtics and most recently the Washington Wizards.
In his Sports Illustrated account, the magazines’ cover story for the May 6 issue, he pointed to the April 15 attack in Boston as a factor in his decision to come forward.
“The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”
Boston Celtics coach Doc River said in a statement, “I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’s a pro’s pro.”
Ed Stefanski, the Toronto Raptors executive vice president who helped draft Collins in 2001 when he was with the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), said he shared his support with Collins.
“I texted him and told him how proud I was of him and that it took a lot of courage for him to come out. I’m sure it took a lot off his shoulders,” Stefanski said. “I know that all the players that were with him with the Nets are going to be very supportive and only wish him the best.”
And Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant tweeted his encouragement:
Bryant’s support came two years after he was fined $100,000 for using a homophobic slur during a game.
And the issue has arisen in other sports. Before this year’s Super Bowl, a San Francisco 49ers player said gay athletes would not be welcome in the locker room.
We gathered a collection of athletes’ tweets about Collins’ news today: