NEW YORK (AP) — NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay.
The 34-year-old center, who has played for six teams in 12 seasons, wrote a first-person account that was posted on Sports Illustrated’s website Monday. Collins finished the season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to keep playing.
“If I had my way, someone else would have already done this,” he writes. “Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
Collins played in a Final Four for Stanford and reached two NBA Finals. His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Collins says he told his brother he was gay last summer.
“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,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement.
Among those offering support on social media was former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, a friend from Stanford. She tweeted: “Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength & courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA.”
Collins was also college roommates with another member of an American political dynasty: Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. In his account, Collins wrote that he realized he needed to go public when the congressman walked in Boston’s gay pride parade last year — and Collins couldn’t join him.
Kennedy tweeted Monday that “I’ve always been proud to call (Collins) a friend, and I’m even prouder to stand with him today.”
Mostly a backup in his career, Collins has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards. He was traded from Boston to Washington in February. Collins was the 18th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft.
Several male athletes have previously come out after they retired, including the NBA’s John Amaechi, the NFL’s Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball’s Billy Bean. But Collins is the first to do so while planning to keep playing.
Advocacy organization GLAAD released a statement from Aaron McQuade, who head of its sports program.
“‘Courage’ and ‘inspiration’ are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context,” he said. “We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero.”
Out and Proud Celebrities
1. EJ JohnsonSource:Instagram 1 of 25
2. Robin Roberts announced her sexual orientation on Facebook in 2013. (Photo: AP)2 of 25
3. CNN Anchor Don Lemon3 of 25
4. Previously married to a man for seven years, Wanda Sykes officially came out in 2008.4 of 25
5. NBA player Jason Collins5 of 25
6. Fitness trainer Shaun T came out in 2013 and married his longtime boyfriend.6 of 25
7. Michael Sam announced he was gay in an ESPN interview.7 of 25
8. Singer Meshell Ndegeocello is an open lesbian and huge advocate for gay rights.(PR)8 of 25
9. Orlando Cruz is the first active, openly gay boxer.9 of 25
10. Elton John announced he was gay in 1976, and has been openly out since. (PR)10 of 25
11. Director and Producer Paris Barclay has been with his partner for 14 years. (PR)11 of 25
12. R&B singer Frank Ocean recently divulged to the world that his first love was a man. (AP)12 of 25
13. André Leon Talley, fashion icon and editor at Vogue Magazine. (PR)13 of 25
14. TV personality and hair stylist Miss Lawrence.14 of 25
15. Singer Melissa Etheridge announced she was a lesbian in 1993 and has been a huge gay rights activist since. (PR)15 of 25
16. "Precious" and "The Butler" director Lee Daniels16 of 25
17. Andre Charles or famously known as drag queen RuPaul has been openly gay for many years. (PR)17 of 25
18. Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi have been married for four years. (PR)18 of 25
19. Famous Latino singer Ricky Martin finally came out as gay in 2010. (PR)19 of 25
20. Famous Choreographer Bill T. Jones is openly gay. (PR)20 of 25
21. Former N'Sync band member Lance Bass announced he was gay in 2006. (PR)21 of 25
22. "Fast Car" singer Tracy Chapman. (PR)22 of 25
23. Anderson Cooper came out in an open email to fans. (AP)23 of 25
24. Celebrity hair Stylist and TV personality Derek J.24 of 25
25. Catwalk coach Miss J. Alexander.25 of 25