On Monday April 29, NBA center Jason Collins announced in an article with Sports Illustrated that he is the first athlete to come out as being gay while still playing in any of the four major American sports. Collins is in his 12th season in the NBA, and is currently playing for the Washington Wizards.
Collins wrote in his article for Sports Illustrated, “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. “
Collin’s statement that he is gay went viral on all social media sites; sparking comments from the biggest athletes, such as Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. Bryant tweeted, “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU”. Collins also gained over 10,000 twitter followers after his comments went public. Other celebrities such as former President Bill Clinton, and NBA Commissioner David Stern both commended Collins for his honesty and courage.
Collins was drafted 18th overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2001 NBA Draft, after playing at Stanford, with his twin brother Jarron. He is set to become a free agent in the offseason and Philadelphia 76ers president Rod Thorn, who has known Collins since he acquired him in a draft day trade back when he was working for the Nets, doesn’t believe that Collin’s sexuality will affect team’s interest in signing him.
He said, “It’s so hard to get good players, and tough enough keep them once you get them, that I think virtually everybody looks at players now and asks, ‘Can he help us?’ I just don’t think his sexual orientation matters in today’s world.”
Collins said that he considered coming out during the 2011 NBA lockout, because his routine had been interrupted, and it “forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want.” The first person he told was his aunt Teri.
After he disclosed his sexuality to her, he said that she told him, “I’ve known you were gay for years.” Collins stated that this made him feel very comfortable with who he is.
Collins has been hailed as a “role model” and “a man with a big heart”, over the last 24 hours. One thing is for sure, this is not the end. This very well may be the beginning of an uprising in major American sports for gay athletes. Who will be next? We will just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure; Collin’s reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and he is an inspiration to everyone who is gay in any occupation, not just sports.