Jason Collins announced today that he is gay. The longtime NBA veteran, Collins, is the first active male professional athlete in a major American sport to do so publicly. In a first-person account that was posted Monday on SportsIllustrated.com (which can be viewed here), Collins said that he has always wanted to come out but feels that now is the right time. He says, "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...If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
To some people this may be a non-story, but for other gay athletes or people that are considering coming out, this may make them feel more comfortable about themselves. For them, this is what makes today an important day in sports history. Collins said that he first felt comfortable about coming out to friends and family after he revealed to his aunt that he was gay.
NBA player Jason Collins says he is gay - The Magazine - SI.com
The first relative I came out to was my aunt Teri...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.
Jason Collins played for the Boston Celtics to start the 2012-2013 season but was dealt at the trade deadline to the Washington Wizards. When Colins was traded, Doc Rivers was asked Jason's character and Doc had nothing but kind words to say about him.
Rivers Calls Collins ‘One of the Best Guys I’ve Ever Had’ in Celtics Locker Room, NESN.com
"He’s the best. He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach. He’s just honest. He’s honest with the coaching staff with what he sees, and he’s honest with the players. A player will complain about something, and he’ll tell them the truth. A lot of guys don’t want to hear the truth. I would love to have him all the time."
From Doc's statement, it sounds like it is only right that a man like Jason Collins is the one to open the floodgates for other gay athletes in professional sports to come out. What makes this story a little bit more special is that he says he wore the jersey number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a victim of a gay hate crime that occurred in 1998. Collins said, "When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends."
Jason Collins says that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but he hopes that him coming out makes things easier for any professional athlete that is uneasy about it. He feels that openness may not "disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start." Regardless of anyone's feelings about this story, you can take these final words from Collins and relate to them.
The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I'm much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.