NBA center Jason Collins this morning become the first male athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay.
Collins, 34, is a 12-year NBA veteran and this season he appeared in 32 games with the Celtics. He currently is a free agent.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins says a first-person article. “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.”
Why am I coming out now? Well, I started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. I’m a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.
The first relative I came out to was my aunt Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco. Her reaction surprised me. “I’ve known you were gay for years,” she said. From that moment on I was comfortable in my own skin. In her presence I ignored my censor button for the first time. She gave me support. The relief I felt was a sweet release. Imagine you’re in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years. 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.
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.”
Collins was born in Northridge, Calif., and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in communications, concentrating in broadcast and print media. His twin brother Jarron is also a longtime NBA center, spending time with the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers last season.
Jarron also published an essay this morning in support of his brother. His piece published in Sports Illustrated is titled “I’ve never been more proud of my brother.”
Former NBA player John Amaechi came out as gay in 2007 but already had retired. More recently, earlier this month top WNBA draft pick and Baylor University senior Brittney Griner became one of the highest profile LGBT athletes in the country when she confirmed in an interview that she is gay.