NBA player Jason Collins, a free agent who finished the 2012 season with the Washington Wizards, became the first openly gay major-league male athlete in America Monday, with an online op-ed published by Sports Illustrated.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins wrote. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation."
In the editorial, Collins, 34, said that he was a roommate of U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., at Stanford University. Collins wrote that he was "jealous" when Kennedy told him that he had marched in Boston's 2012 gay pride parade.
"The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect," wrote Collins. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8."
Former NFL player Wade Davis, who came out as gay in 2012, told U.S. News he spoke with Collins Monday, describing him as "excited."
"I'm speechless to be honest," Davis said. "It allows people to turn on their TVs and see a gay athlete. It changes people's mindsets about what the world can look like."
Are there challenges looming for Collins? "I don't think there will be many," said Davis. "He told me so many of his past teammates have reached out to him with love."
Earlier this year, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo hinted at the possibility that several gay athletes would come out at one time, telling the Baltimore Sun that "up to four" NFL players were considering a joint announcement. But Davis said he's not aware of a pending wave of disclosures.
"This was about Jason feeling comfortable with himself," said Davis.
Collins's most recent team and the NBA have both been supportive of his announcement.
"We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly," the Wizards said in a released statement. "He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation."
NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a tweeted statement: "As [deputy NBA commissioner] Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. 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."
The NBA's official Twitter account retweeted supportive messages from Kobe Bryant and former President Bill Clinton.
"We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him," said Aaron McQuade, head of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's sports program. "We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero."