Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran center who played for the Celtics earlier this season, came out in a Sports Illustrated cover story today.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay,” Collins told SI.
He is believed to be the first athlete in any of the four major American professional team sports to come out publicly.
Collins wrote a personal essay for the magazine where he touched his reasons for coming out, his family's reaction, and how he hopes fellow players and fans might treat him now.
“I realized I needed to go public when Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford, 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,” Collins wrote. “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.' "
Collins was dealt by the Celtics to the Wizards in a trade that brought Jordan Crawford to Boston. Living in Washington, DC urged Collins to make his announcement, he explained.
“The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage," Collins said. "Less than three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard and I couldn’t say a thing. I didn’t want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.”
There had been rumblings in recent weeks that the NFL might have a player, or multiple players simultaneously, come out. Collins insisted he never planned on being the first, but he felt it was time.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," he said. "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."
NBA commissioner David Stern released a statement reacting to the news of Collins's announcement.
"Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career," Stern said, "and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”