In a Sports Illustrated article published online on Monday (from the May 6th edition of the magazine) 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first out gay active male pro athlete in the history of America's major leagues.
The article was written by Collins himself, and explains what prompted his coming out. In part, he says, it was the tragic events that unfolded in Boston two weeks ago.
The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe (Kennedy, Massachusetts Congressman and Collins' roommate at Stanford) a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said in 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.”
"Courage" and "inspiration" are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context.
We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him.
From our years of working with the NBA, including teaming with Athlete Ally to train two classes of rookies, we absolutely know that the league will proudly support him. We also know that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero.
Those athletes weren't lacking for heroes, as women from Martina Navratilova in 1981 to Brittney Griner just days ago have come out while active - and men from Billy Bean to Wade Davis to John Amaechi have come out after retiring. But Collins, when he signs with his new team (he is currently a free agent) will become the first out gay pro athlete to face what many feel is as tough a gauntlet as any ... one's teammates, in a men's locker room.
Collins says it won't be a problem at all.
Believe me, I've taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn't an issue before, and it won't be one now. My conduct won't change. I still abide by the adage, "What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room." I'm still a model of discretion.
Collins reveals in the piece that he has worn uniform number 98 in memory of the year Matthew Shepard was killed.
Thanks to Collins' toughness and longevity, nearly every active player in the NBA has either played with or against him at some point in their careers. And thanks to his courage, every single one of those players has learned a new definition of what it means to be gay.