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Mon, 04.29.2013

First Active Major Sport Athlete ‘Comes Out’

*On this date in 2013, Jason Collins, a Black professional basketball player announced that he is Homosexual. Collins said, “I’m a 34-year-old N.B.A. center. I’m black and I’m gay,” Collins, who finished this season with the Washington Wizards, became the first openly gay male athlete who is still active in a major American team sport.  This was another example of the intersectionality with culture, gender, business, and more.

Other gay athletes, including the former N.B.A. center John Amaechi, have waited until retirement to divulge their sexuality publicly. The announcement followed recent decisions by two other athletes the American soccer player Robbie Rogers and the women’s basketball player Brittney Griner to acknowledge that they are gay.  When Rogers, 25, revealed the previous month that he was gay, he also said he was retiring from soccer. (He has since indicated he may play again.) Griner, the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft, embarked on her professional career.

Collins’s announcement was greeted with an outpouring of support from teammates, league executives and major National Basketball Association players, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade among them. Other league big names followed suit, including the Lakers’ Steve Nash, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the Knicks’ Jason Kidd and San Antonio’s Tony Parker. Several teams sent out statements of support. Prominent coaches, including (then) Boston’s Doc Rivers, who has worked with Collins, gave support in interviews. ESPN’s N.B.A. analyst Chris Broussard, citing his religious beliefs, said that living openly as a homosexual was a sin and that doing so was “walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.”

“The overwhelmingly positive reaction does not surprise me,” N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern said in a telephone interview. “Our players are actually knowledgeable and sophisticated on this issue, and our teams understand it completely. I would have expected them to be supportive, and they are.” President Obama called Collins “to express his support and said he was impressed by his courage,” according to a Twitter post from the White House. Michelle Obama, on her account, called Collins’s announcement “a huge step forward for our country.” As a player, Collins relying on his size (7 feet, 255 pounds), intelligence, and work ethic carved out a useful position after being drafted 18th overall in 2001.

In his Sports Illustrated essay, Collins alludes to his future in the league: “I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.”


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