It seems the history of gay athletes in pro sports that are remaining closeted for the sake of their career is a thing of the past.
Earlier this week, the attractive Jason Collins, a 12-year N.B.A. veteran, has come out as the first openly gay male athlete still active in a major American team sport.
“I’m a 34-year-old N.B.A. center. I’m black and I’m gay,” Collins, the Washington Wizards center, writes in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated. The magazine published the article online Monday morning.
The announcement makes Collins a pioneer of sorts: the first player in the N.B.A., the N.F.L., the N.H.L. or Major League Baseball to come out while still pursuing his career. Other gay athletes, including the former N.B.A. center John Amaechi and Wade Davis, have waited until retirement to divulge their sexuality publicly. While there has been much debate about the kind of reception an active player in the N.B.A., the N.F.L., the N.H.L. or Major League Baseball would receive after announcing his homosexuality, things went smoothly for Collins on Day 1 - especially on social media.
Amazingly, it took only 10 minutes from the time Sports Illustrated posted Jason Collins’s essay, in which he came out as gay, for one of his N.B.A. brethren to offer him encouragement and support on Twitter. Many current and former players on the social media site Monday afternoon showed tremendous support for Collins.
“Congratulations to Jason – society couldn’t hope for a more eloquent & positive role model,” Amaechi’s message read on twitter.
Others posted in support of Collins, including Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, his Nets teammate from 2001 to 2008.The Lakers star Kobe Bryant weighed in, saying: “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others. #courage #support."
From outside the N.B.A. world, encouragement was posted to Twitter by Bill Clinton, Martina Navratilova, Spike Lee, Michael Strahan and others. The Boston Red Sox invited Collins to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park.
The NBA player says, “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.”
This isn't a huge surprise entirely. Weeks ago their was some media anticipation of a coming-out announcement by several players from the NFL, NBA, and NHL, voicing opinions on both sides of the issue. It seems to be happening slowly but surely.
“We are proud that Jason Collins has assumed the mantle of leadership on this very important issue,” NBA Commissioner David Stern observed.
Coming out is a liberating experience, Collins reflects. “Now, I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively.” Collins himself acknowledges the obstacles to coming out. “No one wants to live in fear,” he states, “I’ve endured years of misery and gone to great lengths to live a lie.
The Washington Wizards have yet to issue a statement on Collins, who goes into free agency this summer, and is said to be interested in returning to the Nets, now playing in Brooklyn, with whom he began his award-winning career.
“In the brotherhood of the NBA,” Collins closes, “I just happen to be the one that’s gay.”
After hearing about Collins' coming out, I immediately thought that this is a HUGE deal. He has no idea how epic this decision to come out while actively playing in the NBA will inspire and change homophobia amongst our youth and our homophobic adults. The ripples will be endless. Because, frankly, a lot of people think because you're gay that means your can't play sports nor do you deserve to be looked up to by our youth as a gay athlete. I'm trying really hard to not use expletives here but screw them. I can't wait for more players to come out and unite. They can show these homophobic pricks that we can play sports and play well. Our athletic is uniting, and I'm just happy to be apart of the team.
Here's my hashtag for Mr. Jason Collins: #liveyourlife .
Jason, I'm really proud, and admire, of your courage. And, yes, we can go on a date anytime. #yeshomo
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Tags: athlete comes out, Bill Clinton, boston red sox, coming out, Gay Community, jason collins, jason kidd, john amaechi, kobe bryant, lakers kobe bryant, major league baseball, martina navratilova, michael strahan, national basketball association, nba, NFL, NHL, spike lee, sports illustrated, steve nash, tony parker, washington wizards, washington wizards jason collins