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Jason Collins, a 12-Year NBA Veteran, Has Come Out of the Closet

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NBA center Jason Collins has become the first active, openly gay male professional athlete in major American team sports. The 12-year NBA veteran, who played for the Celtics and Wizards in 2012-13, revealed his sexual orientation in an article 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.

Collins says he decided to come out to take a more active and honest role as an advocate for gay rights.

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

According to Collins he “goes against the gay stereotype.” He believes few would have expected the first openly gay NBA player to be a seven-foot-enforcer who once led the league in personal fouls. He has played for six teams over his 12-year career.

Collins is a “free agent, literally and figuratively.” The NBA has positioned itself in favor of tolerance in the past, cracking down on gay slurs and supporting openly gay Warriors president Rick Welts. Now the league faces an additional test: whether a team will sign an openly gay player this summer.

* Worth noting: Collins is not America’s first openly gay professional athlete. He’s the first openly gay professional athlete in major male team sports.

UPDATE: David Stern released a statement.

“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.”

Kobe Bryant also tweeted his support.

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