Professional basketball player Uri Kokia has come out publicly as gay, the first male professional basketball player in Israel to do so.
The 6-foot-8 power forward came out publicly in an interview today with ynet.co.il.
"I want to show you can make a long and glorious career as a gay man," he said. “The fear of coming out of the closet is unreal. I want to connect with young people and tell them that you can be different and do what you love.”
Kokia said he has been out to people in professional basketball in Israel and they have accepted him.
The reaction from the sports world in Israel has, according to reports, been supportive. One player, Dekel Keinan, tweeted this strong message of support:
Uri Kukia, you are my sportsman of the year. Well done for the brave and important step
Last year Israeli basketball player Gili Mosinzon came out publicly as bisexual.
At 36 years old, Kokia has played his entire professional career in Israel. He currently plays for Hapoel Ramat Gan, outside of Tel Aviv. It has been in Tel Aviv that Kokia has gone to gay bars and started to live his life openly.
Much like Jason Collins in the NBA, he is coming out at the tail end of his professional career.
We have the utmost respect for what Kokia has done. He lives and plays basketball in a country that still will not allow same-sex marriages to be performed. Yet he sees the value to his community, and to youth, of him coming out publicly, and he has the courage to do so.
No doubt he’ll open more hearts and minds in Israel.