Jason Collins isn’t hiding who he is anymore, and he’s come out as the NBA’s first openly gay player.
Jason, who plays for the Washington Wizards, has revealed that he’s gay in a ground-breaking open letter in Sports Illustrated. “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” he stated plainly.
With an announceent like that, the cover of the issue, due out May 6, boldly labels him “The Gay Athlete.” That’s how some people may know him from now as this brave confession effectively makes Jason the first professional American athlete to come out while still active in his sport. It’s not something that he necessarily wanted to be known for, but he feels taking this important first step could give more pro atheletes in his position the courage to do the same.
“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,” Jason wrote. “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.”
Jason wrote that his “journey of self-discovery” began in high school and continued through 12 seasons in the NBA. In that time he’s played for six professional teams and been to the NBA Finals twice. However, he only began to think about coming out during the 2011 NBA lockout.
As someone that is very regimented in his training and playing cycle, the downtime gave Jason a lot of time to think. “The lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want,” he explained. “With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.”
Jason shared that the first person he came out to was his aunt Teri, who let him know that his sexuality was no huge family secret to her. He recalls that she said, “I’ve known you were gay for years.” In her, he found an invaluable support system that really allowed him a type of relief that he had never known before because he had never come to terms with his homosexuality before.
“Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years,” Jason said. “When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. “
What ultimately gave Jason the courage to come out, however, was following the example of an old friend who marched in Boston’s gay pride parade last year. “I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what [Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy] had done filled me with envy,” he explained. “I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator.”
The NBA point guard added, “If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore.”
With this burdensome secret off of his chest, Jason clarified that he has no intent of falling back with his NBA career. “Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively,” Jason declared. “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.”