NBA center Jason Collins, a 34-year old journeyman, came out as gay in an op-ed in Sports Illustrated on Monday, becoming the first athlete in any of the major American leagues to do so while still an active player.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins wrote. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”
Collins was never a star in the league, but played an important part in several elite New Jersey Nets squads in the early 2000s, including a starting role on the 2002-2003 team that went to the NBA Finals.
Previously, NBA player John Amaechi came out in 2007 and wrote a book about his experience, but only after he had retired from the league.
Collins mentions that he was inspired to go public with his sexuality in part due to his friendship with Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA):
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.”