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NBA veteran centre Jason Collins has become the first active player in any US major professional sports leagues to reveal that he is gay, doing so to Sports Illustrated in a major cover story released on Monday.
Collins, who is now a free agent, has played in the NBA for 12 seasons with six teams, spending this past campaign with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards. He helped the New Jersey Nets reach the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA centre. I’m black and I’m gay,” began the story that Collins penned for the magazine with writer Franz Lidz.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.
“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
The landmark revelation will now focus attention on Collins and any club that decides to sign him as well as the attitudes of his new teammates.
Among the messages of support Collins received for his admission were those from former US president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was a college friend of Collins at Stanford, and NBA commissioner David Stern.
“Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT [Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender] community,” Clinton said.
“It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities.
“For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”
Stern said Jason and his brother Jarron “have been exemplary members of the NBA family” and praised Collins for the courage and leadership of his admission.
“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,” Stern said.