MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – He plays in the NBA. He also happens to be gay.
NBA center Jason Collins became the first active player in a major professional American team sport to reveal that he is gay, doing so to Sports Illustrated in a major cover story released on Monday.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay,” began the story that Collins penned for the magazine with writer Franz Lidz.
“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.
Collins, who is now a free agent, has played in the NBA for 12 seasons with six teams, spending this past campaign with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards. He helped the New Jersey Nets reach the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals.
“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 landmark revelation will now focus attention on Collins and any club that decides to sign him as well as the attitudes of his new teammates.
His brother Jaron Collins, who also plays in the NBA, penned an article on his reaction to Jason’s coming out in the same Sports Illustrated issue.
“I hugged him and I digested what he had told me. At the end of the day, this is what matters: 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,” he said.
“Today, Jason has taken a huge weight off his shoulders. And I’ve never been more proud of him,” added the younger Collins.
Among the messages of support Collins received for his admission were those from former US president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was a college friend of Collins at Stanford, and NBA commissioner David Stern.
I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend. wjcf.co/154piCi— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 29, 2013
“Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) community,” Clinton said.
“It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many 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.”
Colleagues from the NBA were quick to chime in on Collin’s historic move.
“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,” said Stern.
Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld expressed pride and support of Collin’s decision to “live his life proudly and openly.” -With reports from Agence France-Presse, Rappler.com