In an interview with Sports Illustrated on Monday, NBA player Jason Collins became the first active player to openly come out and announce he is gay. The move is a major landmark in the gay rights movement. Others have come out after retiring from the sport, including former NBA player John Amaechi, but no player has ever openly come out while still seeking to play in the league.
Collins stated in an interview with Sports Illustrated, “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.” He also later went on to claim he wished he did not have to be the first one to do so, but is more than willing to start the debate. The center explained his stance by stating, “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.”
Jason Collins has been a veteran of the NBA since 2001. The majority of his career was spent with the New Jersey Nets, who drafted him in the first round of the 2001 draft. Following his departure from the Nets in 2008, Collins has played with a number of teams including the Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Atlanta Hawks. Last season, Collins spent time with both the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, as he was traded during the season. He was an All-American center at Stanford University, where he played alongside his twin brother, Jarron. Jarron also played for ten seasons in the NBA but recently retired following the 2011 season.
During the interview, Collins discussed his free agency. Following last season, his contract was not renewed by the Washington Wizards. He seemed satisfied with his current situation, claiming he was happy he could do anything he wanted with his life now.
One of the main arguments against a current professional athlete coming out was that they would not be received well by their fellow teammates. In a league that stresses toughness and pride, many felt teammates would be uncomfortable around an openly gay player in the locker room. Thankfully, that has not been the case since the story broke. There has been overwhelming support from athletes, both past and present, for Collins and his decision to announce his sexuality.
Collins’ former coach at Boston, Doc Rivers, said he is proud of Jason and happy for him. Nike, whom Jason is a spokesman for, issued a statement of support for the athlete. Other athletes to support the decision include Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwyane Wade.
When questioned about his sexuality, Collins claimed only one person knew his secret. He had, at one point in his life, notified an aunt of his sexuality, who was completely supportive. Even his twin brother was unaware until last summer when Jason discussed the issue during a meeting between the two. Jarron apparently never suspected it, but offered nothing but support for his brother.
Collins claimed a number of factors forced him to come out, including the fact that he was tired of hiding who he was. Another factor included when his former roommate in college, Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, marched in Boston’s gay pride parade last year. Collins has since discussed the issue with Kennedy, with the two planning to march together during this year’s parade.
Unsurprisingly, a few morons came out of the woodwork to criticize the decision. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace posted a message on Twitter mocking the decision, but later deleted the post and offered a pathetic attempt at an apology. Fortunately, Wallace is the outlier in this equation. Athletes commenting on the news have been nothing but supportive of Jason and the LGBT community. We applaud Jason for his decision to stand up, regardless of how the public perceives the announcement.