NBA Center Jason Collins Becomes League’s First Openly Gay Active Player

Recently a member of the Washington Wizards, Jason Collins made history as the first male athlete in an American professional sport to publicly declare his homosexuality while still actively playing.

From his piece in Sports Illustrated:.

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

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. 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.

Sports Illustrated posted the front page of this week’s publication, with Collins highlighted.

Almost immediately following the unveiling of this story on the Patrick Dan Show, Baron Davis, who played for the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 season, tweeted his support for Collins.

Kobe Bryant promptly added his thoughts as well.

The President of the Wizards, Ernie Grunfeld, issued the following statement through the team’s official website:.

We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.

Jarron, the sibling of Jason, authored the subsequent information in an article for Sports Illustrated.

I already anticipate the questions: “Are you the gay twin or the straight one?” This is uncharted territory, and no one can predict how it will play out. It’s a big deal—but it’s also not a big deal. When the media crush is over, Jason will have the strength to deal with whatever challenges come from being openly gay.

As for us, we’re still going to give each other grief. (He’s still going to be a terrible golfer; he’s still the guy who could help more with changing my kids’ diapers.) We’ll still be competitive in our way. As kids we were always pushing each other, whether it was for good grades or for possession of the remote control. As NBA players we both wanted to be stronger, so each summer we would have a “liftoff” to see who could put up more weight.

Today, Jason has taken a huge weight off his shoulders. And I’ve never been more proud of him.

The Clinton family also joined the conversation, beginning with Chelsea Clinton, who was Collins’ fellow student at Stanford.

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Former President Bill Clinton remarked:

I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.

Ultimately, the statement was issued by NBA commissioner David Stern (via Mark Medina on Sulia):.

As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. 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.

Recently, there has been a push for more acceptance of homosexuality in professional sports, particularly among male athletes. However, there is still a lingering perception that male athletes are slower to accept the idea of gay players than their female counterparts. Ayanbadejo Brendon and Kluwe Chris, openly promoting gay rights in the NFL, have played a significant role in changing this perception.

Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne held an interview with fellow athletes Brittney Griner, who recently revealed her sexual orientation discreetly, in the WNBA.

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It is uncertain whether Collins’ future teammates will even be released from free agency, or if the 34-year-old center, who played in only 38 games last season with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, will have a different attitude towards him.

One common belief is that we won’t truly see a push for acceptance of homosexual male athletes until a major star comes out, and the importance of this moment should not be underestimated, as it may be a case of Collins’ bravery.

Coaches and players, along with the fans, will feel comfortable enough to come out in support of male athletes with Collins’ announcement, as sports have always been an outlet where societal injustices could be addressed and rectified, such as breaking baseball’s color line dating back to Jackie Robinson.

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