NEW YORK — NBA veteran center Jason Collins has become the first active male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay.
Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday on Sports Illustrated’s website. The 34-year-old Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
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.
Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.
I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy.
I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride.
I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”Read Collins’ complete essay at Sports Illustrated →
Collins said he quietly made a statement for gay rights even while keeping his sexual orientation a secret. He wore No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards – 1998 was year that Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.
He wrote that the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 “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?”
Article continues belowAnd now, he says, he will be in Boston on June 8, marching alongside Kennedy at the city’s 2013 gay rights parade.
His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Jason said he came out to his brother last summer.
“He’s my brother, he’s a great guy, and I want him to be happy. I’ll love him and I’ll support him and, if necessary, I’ll protect him,” Jarron wrote, in his own Sports Illustrated essay.
Update: The White House on Monday joined the chorus of praise by commending Collins for becoming the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay. More here →