NBA center Jason Collins made history today when he announced that he is gay in a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated.
The 34-year-old free agent (who has played with the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics this past season) is the first male athlete in a major professional sport to come out about his sexual orientation.
” 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 said in the column. “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.”
The news has drawn support from many public figures including Bill Clinton and fellow NBA star Kobe Bryant:
– Kobe Bryant
“I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend. wjcf.co/154piCi“
– Bill Clinton
“Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports,” said the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group fighting for gay rights. They compared the announcement to Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in major league baseball in the modern era.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement that he was “extremely happy and proud” of his former player.
“He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite ‘team’ players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance.”
Rivers added, “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be, it’s not up to you, it’s just me being me.'”
For more on this story, check out Collins’ full Sports Illustrated editorial here.