On Monday, Washington Wizards NBA center Jason Collins publicly came out to the world as gay. His admission makes him the first openly gay athlete in a major U.S. professional team sport.
Collins had already been out to his friends and family and although he had never outright stated in public that he was straight, nonetheless felt he was not being totally honest. With a simply stated sentence on Sports Illustrated's website yesterday, he changed that. He commenced his first-person article with a straight-to-the-point utterance. "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
Just like that, he became a trailblazer, altering the long-held straight-only stereotype of professional athletes.
Throughout the bulk of the article, Collins went on to describe his reasons for coming out now, his journey of self discovery, family reactions, and how it felt to be the first athlete to come out. "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." Now that the road to openness has been paved, Collins hope is that other athletes will follow in his footsteps.
Collins says he always knew he was gay but tried to hide it for a long time. A black man, a professional athlete, a Christian with a religious family background and friends who were getting married and having children. None of these factors made him feel all too comfortable coming out as the different one... and for years he didn't. At one point, he even got engaged to a woman. Realizing the depth of his misery, he ultimately called off the wedding and began his journey down the road of honesty and self-discovery. Throughout everything, though, he always had basketball. And the love and devotion to the sport, Collins says, was a saving grace.
Collins is a seasoned NBA player. He has been a player for six teams over twelve years, including the the L.A. Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Jersey Nets, and currently, Washington Wizards. While his team did not make the current playoff season, Collins is starting to focus his attention on next season. And with his admission out to the public, he can really do so with a clear mind. This summer, Collins will officially become a free agent - he does not have a team in mind but knows he wants to stay in the NBA. Here's to hoping he does.
Photo courtesy of SportsIllustrated.com