NBA player Jason Collins just announced that he is gay. Collins is the first active player in a major American contact sport to come out publicly. Collins made his announcement in Sports Illustrated and the story is being carried by ESPN and other major media outlets. Collins is a 12-year veteran, and has played 713 games for six different teams. Collins explained “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.”
Collins is the second NBA player to come out. John Amaechi became the first professional basketball player to openly identify himself as gay. Amaechi announced that he was gay in 2007 after retiring from the NBA.
Collins was drafted in 2002 by the Houston Rockets after graduating from Stanford University. He has played for the New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, and Washington Wizards. The 7’0,” 255lb center has been a role player for his entire 12-year career, averaging just 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for his career.
Collins is the second American basketball player to come out as gay in recent weeks. Brittany Griner, the #1 draft pick in the WNBA and former star for the University of Baylor announced she was gay on the eve of the draft. Griner has gone on to become the first openly gay athlete to receive an endorsement contract from Nike.
Speculation that an active gay American athlete would come out had been centered on the NFL. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo stated that as many as four NFL players were planning on coming out as gay. Ayanbadejo told the Baltimore Sun “It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.”
In his announcement, Collins stated, “Now I'm a free agent, literally and figuratively. I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want.” Collins credited his aunt Teri, who is a superior court judge in San Francisco, with making him “comfortable in my own skin.”
Reaction around the NBA has been positive and supportive. Outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern said, “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.” Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant tweeted, “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"
Former President Bill Clinton announced his support, proclaiming, “Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community.”
Jason’s twin brother Jarron is also a former NBA player and Stanford University graduate. Jarron played 10 years in the league. He is extremely supportive of his twin. In a Sports Illustrated article he said what many of us are thinking, “Today, Jason has taken a huge weight off his shoulders. And I've never been more proud of him.”
Collins’ announcement is currently trending on Twitter - #JasonCollins.
His team is also throwing their support behind him: