NBA player Jason Collins comes out as gay

WiG

NBA player Jason Collins has come out, becoming the first male athlete to come out while actively playing on a professional U.S. sports team.

Says NBA Commissioner David Stern, “As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

Collins, a center, finished the 2012-13 season with the Washington Wizards. He’s also played for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Atlanta Hawk  and Memphis Grizzlies.

Collins comes out in an essay in Sports Illustrated. The issue hits newsstands this week, and is on the Web now.

Collins says, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.“

He continues, “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.”

Also from the essay: “The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Less than 3 miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. 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.”

The package in Sports Illustrated also includes:

• A first person reaction from Jarron Collins – Jason Collins’ twin brother and former NBA player

• An editor’s letter from SI Managing Editor Chris Stone about how the story came together.

• A reflection from agent Arm Tellem.     

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, calls Collins’ announcement brave and honest and says the athlete “has forever changed the face of sports.”

No longer,” says Griffin, “will prejudice and fear force gay athletes to remain silent about a fundamental part of their lives. By coming out and living openly while still an active NBA player, Collins has courageously shown the world that one’s sexual orientation is no longer an impediment to achieving one’s goals, even at the highest levels of professional sports.”

The Last Closet, an organization that has been campaigning this last year to reform the sports world and encourage athletes to come out, states: “This event is the beginning of what we hope will be a groundswell of continued inclusion and tolerance throughout our culture.

“Because of its strong position of influence in our culture, sports has always been a pivotal component of change. Athletes are our national heroes. Young and old alike revere these players. As more become visible our youth will have role models to point to to say – ‘He’s like me. I’m like him. If he is out and proud maybe I can be too.’ The suicide statistics for LGBT youth are daunting. Each player that comes out can influence these numbers.”

Numerous people on April 29 have issued statements in support of Collins, including former President Bill Clinton and director Spike Lee.

Clinton’s reads, “I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what somany of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”

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