The First Openly Gay Athlete Playing In A Major American Team Sport’: NBA Star Jason Collins Makes History By Coming Out

The free agent for the Washington Wizards became the first active athlete in a major American professional sport to publicly come out as gay,

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” Collins writes in a Sports Illustrated story announcing his sexuality. “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,” Collins said. “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.

He revealed that he decided to come out of the closet because he was tired of worrying that somebody might suspect he was gay and was no longer willing to live a dishonest life.

“No one wants to live in fear,” Collins wrote in article he authored with Sports Illustrated’s Franz Lidz. “I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.”

“The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “Less then three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn’t say a thing. I didn’t want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.”

He added: ”I’m a veteran, and I’ve earned the right to be heard. I’ll lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones. I’m not the loudest person in the room, but I’ll speak up when something isn’t right. And try to make everyone laugh.”

Former President Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was a friend of Collins’ at Stanford, released a statement on his Web site supporting Collins.

“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.”

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