Former Stanford basketball star and current NBA player Jason Collins made history today by announcing he is gay, making him the first active professional athlete in a major U.S. sport to come out of the closet.
In an exclusive interview with two writers from Sports Illustrated, the 12-year, 7-foot veteran NBA center that he was tired of, among others, of coming home to an empty house, telling lies, experiencing restless nights and hiding his sexuality. Also in the story, Collins revealed why he chose to wear the number 98 jersey – to honor Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was the victim of a horrific hate crime in 1998.
Shortly after the announcement, many current and former NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Kevin Love, as well as well known public figures including Bill Clinton, Katie Couric, Spike Lee, Ellen DeGeneres and NBA Commission David Stern all offered congratulations and support through social media or a public statement. Encouraging words continuing to dominate Twitter boards today by appearing by the second, signaling the broader acceptance of gay rights and gay marriage in the country today.
In another Sports Illustrated Story posted online today, Collins’ twin brother Jarron wrote “I’ve ever been prouder of my brother,” Jarron Collins, who also played basketball at Stanford and spent more than 10 years in the NBA, wrote the story and has also posted tweets of support. Both Jarron’s and a follow up story featuring brother Jason will appear in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated.
However there were some anti-gay individuals who lashed out at today’s courageous announcement. Steve Deace, a nationally syndicated Conservative talk radio host and Matt Barber has posted comments on Facebook or Twtter express their opposition with Barber going as far as to say on Twitter –
“How low can we go? NBA player admits aberrant, immoral sexual lifestyle & is touted as “heroic”? Sad…”
Other anonymous Twitters have lashed out at Jason Collin for coming out and someone went even infiltrated his Wikipedia site by calling him a “f****t. Fortunately, the slur was taken down quickly and no longer appears.
Professional athletes like Santa Cruz native and former Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo have already been vocal advocates for gay athletes and same sex marriage. Earlier this month, Ayabendejo, a three-time Pro NFL Bowler told the Baltimore Sun and ESPN that four current NFL players are considering coming out. And former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris was publicly outed just prior to Super Bowl XLVII after an incident at a restaurant in Menlo Park with his former partner. Last month, Harris told CNN he was remained in the closet during his NFL because he felt his sexuality “wasn’t compatible” with his career.
It seems only a matter of time when other U.S. professional athletes have the same strength and courage as Jason Collins did to come out. With support for gay rights at all time highs in the country, the American public, professional sporting teams, fans, sportswriters and the players themselves know Collin’s announcement is just the beginning. But Americans know this, Collins is proud of his statement and chances are, with the enormous burden of denial off his massive shoulders, will get a good night’s sleep tonight