Jason Collins Becomes First Openly Gay Male Athlete In Major Professional Sport

Jason Collins reveals he is gay in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated (Photos: Kwaku Alston/SI)
Jason Collins reveals he is gay in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated (Photos: Kwaku Alston/SI)

In the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated, journeyman center Jason Collins reveals that he is gay. Collins becomes the first active player in any of the major four sports to come out during his playing career.

The 34-year-old, a free agent who played with the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics this past season, has spent 12 seasons with six different NBA franchises and averaged 3.6 points per game. He writes in the May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated that he never intended to become the pioneer he has instantly become.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. 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. 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.”

Collins continues, “When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.”

Collins wore the No. 98 for the Wizards and Celtics this season. When asked why he made such an unusual jersey choice earlier this year, Collins explained that he wanted to confuse officials when they have to use their fingers to give his jersey number to the scorer’s table after committing fouls. But in the SI article, he explains that the jersey number was done as a show of solidarity for the gay hate crime against Matthew Shepard, which occurred in 1998.

“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement issued by the team. “He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern also issued a statement that reads: “As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. 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.”

You can read the entire SI exclusive here.

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