We’re getting closer to having an active out gay athlete in major professional sports.
Jason Collins, an NBA free agent center that spent last season with the Washington Wizards, announced that he is gay in a coming out story and essay for Sports Illustrated.
The defensive-minded, 7-0, 255lb Collins played in 38 games this season between the Boston Celtics and Wizards, but isn’t signed with any NBA team going into the 2013-14 season.
If Collins is placed on an NBA roster next season, he will become the first active, out player in any of the 4 professional American sports – the NBA, Major League Baseball, National Football League, and the National Hockey League.
In a letter describing the rationale behind coming out, Collins wrote about his struggle and that he recognized the important precedent he was setting with his decision:
“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.”
“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,” said Collins.
Jason and his twin brother, Jarron, both came into the league in 2001 from Stanford. Jason was drafted with the 18th overall pick by the Houston Rockets while his brother was selected in the second round with the 52nd pick overall and would play for the Jazz, Suns, Clippers, and Trailblazers.
Jason never suited up for the Rockets, as he was immediately traded to the New Jersey Nets where he would become their starting center for the good part of 5 seasons. Collins played a significant defensive role with a team that featured Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson and the team would take the Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the 2002 NBA Finals.
Coming out in the age of social media has already yielded positive reactions and encouragement from NBA commissioner David Stern, Kobe Bryant, Kenneth Faried, Steve Nash, Spike Lee, Rudy Gay, Chelsea Clinton (who attended Stanford with Collins), Nike, Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Earl Watson, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Emeka Okafor, Manu Ginobili, Nicholas Batum, and scores of other NBA players.
Former NBA player John Amaechi came out in 2007 after retiring from the league. Recently, Brittany Griner, the #! draft pick in the WNBA, nonchalantly mentioned in an interview that she was a lesbian.