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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 3, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 18
Equality champ - Jason Collins breaks the NBA no-Gay barrier
Section One
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Equality champ - Jason Collins breaks the NBA no-Gay barrier

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Many people had never heard of Jason Collins before this week, even though for 12 seasons he was a professional athlete in the NBA. As the New York Times was quick to point out, Collins 'has never been an All-Star or a scoring leader, or even a full-time starter.' On April 29, however, Collins would go down in professional sports history for coming out as Gay while still active on the court.

'I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm Black. And I'm Gay,' writes Collins, who finished this season with the Washington Wizards, in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated.

The magazine published the article online Monday morning.

Collins' announcement followed recent decisions by two other pro athletes - Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers and the WNBA's No. 1 draft pick, Brittney Griner - to acknowledge that they are Gay. Collins, however, is the first active player in the 'Big Four' of U.S. men's pro sports (the NBA, NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball) ever to come out.

Collins's announcement was greeted with an outpouring of support from teammates, league executives, and major NBA stars. According to the Times, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are among them.

WHITE HOUSE KUDOS
'The overwhelming positive reaction does not surprise me,' NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a telephone interview with the Times. '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 on April 30. Michelle Obama, on her Twitter account, called Collins's announcement 'a huge step forward for our country.'

Collins said he answered the phone and a female voice said, 'Jason, this is the White House. Can you hold for the president?'

Stunned, Collins took the call.

Collins says Obama said, 'What you did today was brave. It didn't just affect me. It affected so many other people in the country. I'm proud of you.'

'It was just your typical day when you speak to the president and Oprah,' he cracked. 'Truthfully, this whole experience has been humbling and kind of overwhelming. What I'm doing has been done before in sports. There have been lots of other pioneers. I'm obviously the first to come out in this country in one of the four major pro sports - basketball, baseball, football, hockey. But some people would put soccer up there, too, and Robbie Rogers has already blazed a trail there. I'm just trying to live my life authentically.'

NOT A SNAP DECISION
In the Sports Illustrated article, Collins recalls that he considered coming out a couple of years ago. He said he made the decision to do so when Joseph P. Kennedy III, Collins's roommate at Stanford, marched in Boston's Gay pride parade last year. Collins shared that he was envious and frustrated.

'I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore,' Collins wrote. 'I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.'

Collins becomes a free agent July 1 and intends to pursue another contract, which many view as the true test of how NBA teams will deal with an openly Gay athlete.

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