It’s finally happened. NBA player Jason Collins has become the first openly gay athlete from a major American team sport. The 34-year-old Washington Wizards center writes candidly about his sexual orientation in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated.
“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different,’” he said. “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
He writes that the tragic Boston bombings convinced him to come out now. “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”
Collins writes about the impact his coming out is likely to have:
“I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay? But I’ve always been an aggressive player, even in high school. Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn’t make you soft? Who knows? That’s something for a psychologist to unravel. My motivations, like my contributions, don’t show up in box scores, and frankly I don’t care about stats. Winning is what counts. I want to be evaluated as a team player.”
In the essay, he also addresses how straight allies in the pro sports world made his decision easier.
I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted. And yet we still have so much farther to go. Everyone is terrified of the unknown, but most of us don’t want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against. I’m impressed with the straight pro athletes who have spoken up so far — Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo. The more people who speak out, the better, gay or straight. It starts with President Obama’s mentioning the 1969 Stonewall riots, which launched the gay rights movement, during his second inaugural address. And it extends to the grade-school teacher who encourages her students to accept the things that make us different.
NFL, you’ve been served.