Jason Collins Wore #98 Jersey for Matthew Shepard

jason-collins-98Though he officially came out on Monday, Jason Collins was already making a public statement about his sexuality every time he stepped out onto the court. During the 2012-13 season, Collins wore the number 98 jersey in memory of Matthew Shepard.

Collins explained his decision in Sports Illustrated:

My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I’ve struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.

Then, speaking with George Stephanopoulous on ABC News, Collins added:

“Each time I put on jersey 98 this past season, I was already sort of having that moment with myself, with my family, with my friends who knew the significance of why I picked that number. Jersey 98 for Matthew Shepherd. That’s why I wore jersey 98.”

According to The Washington Post‘s sports blogger, Dan Steinberg, the Wizards reported that “100 percent of personalized jerseys ordered from their online store yesterday were ‘Collins 98’.”

Matthew’s mother, Judy, was moved to tears and told MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell that “for Jason to acknowledge Matt’s story and for him to come out at all at this time in his career and his life is really pretty amazing.” Meanwhile, Matthew’s father Dennis noted the amount of hope Collins’ coming out will give to young gay athletes across the country.

“In the past, they’ve had to hide who they are and who they love,” he said, “and this gives them a chance to be themselves and focus on what they should be focused on which is the sport they’re participating in and not focusing half their energy on trying to hide who they are.”

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  • MarioSmario

    It’s as if “gay” has become more a cult than a sexual orientation.
    I long for the 80s when things were less political.
    Don’t get me wrong. Being open and proud of who you are is wonderful. But personally
    I’d go about it with less showmanship.

  • Caliban

    Without political activism (“showmanship”) there would BE no gay rights. No states with gay marriage, companies with non-discrimination policies, etc. etc. For gay people at this moment in time the personal IS political, which is why coming out is so important whether you’re famous or not.

    And while the 80s were when things really started to change they still basically sucked for gays.

  • FStratford


    Another old guy glorifyIng the years when gays had no rights?
    Get off my lawn!!!

  • QJ201

    80’s less political? were you in a closet somewhere?

    The Gay 80’s:
    Second national march on Washington
    Emergence of HIV and birth of HIV activism…without which we may have waited longer for effective anti HIV drugs
    Openly gay characters began appearing on TV shows

    It is the out and proud queers who get and got crap done, not “embarrassed” self loathing “blend in” homosexuals. You don’t deserve the word Gay as you are not a happy homo.

  • wendell

    I am a black gay man. I am a fan of this site.

    That said, I must admit that I am restrained in my enthusiam toward Jason Collins. Honestly, I am probably one of the few black gay men right now who is so restrained because of a belief there is more to his story. Understand, it was brave for him to come out in so public a manner. It had to be a difficult decision on his part.

    But, I don’t understand how he can come out and give as an explanation how the tragic death of Mathew Shepard, a young white man who was murdered because of homophobia, inspired him yet ignore those countless numbers of black men and boys who even now are being bruitalize and killed for being gay; their deaths count just as much as Shepard’s. Collins doesn’t even acknowledge those within his own community who have faced the tragic consequences of homophobia. He doesn’t. I don’t understand it.

    Collins personal life is his own to nevigate. It is no other person’s business. This said, it does hurt when black gay men in the public eye come out and choose embrace white culture and all that comes with it—-like a white male partner. Collins will not be any different. White gay culture will celebrate him like they are now. To many black gay men–black gay men are always being told how INVIBLE their relationships are between one another by vocal black homophobes and gay white supremacy who has already ignored part of the Collons statement of ” I am “black. And I am gay.”

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