NBA center Jason Collins comes out as first openly gay, active athlete in major U.S. sports

Andrew Krammer

 

As a player, NBA center Jason Collins hasn’t been relevant since the early 2000s when his New Jersey Nets made it to back-to-back NBA Finals.

As a social icon, Collins made history Monday as the first major professional athlete to be openly gay while still competing and being a part of a locker room.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” Collins wrote in his public declaration to Sports Illustrated. “I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Collins opted over his peers to take the first leap into a pool of uncertainty as athletes across major professional sports have voiced their opinions, for and against, about having an openly gay teammate.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins wrote. “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.”

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com broke the seal less than two weeks ago when he reported that coaches and teammates, under the condition of anonymity, said they had a gay NFL teammate and “didn’t care at all.”

Fighting the ‘tough guy’ stigma created by testosterone-infused fans and athletes, gay players have always been a part of professional sports. It’s just a numbers game, said basketball-star-turned-TV-analyst Charles Barkley.

“Any professional athlete who gets on TV or radio and says he never played with a gay guy is a stone-freakin’ idiot,” Barkley told the Washington Post two years ago. “I would even say the same thing in college. Every college player, every pro player in any sport has probably played with a gay person.”