Every day this month, we’re looking back at our pioneers, the mark they left on our community and on the sports world, plus landmark events and stories that show Courage Is Contagious.
Today, we look back to April 2013: the first active male pro athlete in the big leagues to come out as gay: Jason Collins.
By Cyd Zeigler
Jason Collins has become the first active male athlete in one of the big pro sports leagues to come out publicly as gay. He writes for Sports Illustrated:
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
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.
We knew this day would come. We didn’t know if it would be this week or next year. But now that it has, I get the feeling that, unlike David Kopay 40 years ago, this may open the door to many more in the near future when everyone sees it worked out just fine for Collins.
He did it in the perfect way: In his own words. The column he wrote was strong, and it sends a clear message: I’m OK with who I am.
We’ve said for years that the best timing for this announcement would be early in the offseason. Just two weeks after his regular season ended, and six months before the season starts, it couldn’t be a better time to do this. The media will get the story out its system before tip-off of the next season.
With all the rumors and speculation floating around for weeks and months now, we have to wonder: Who will be second....
The 7-foot center has been in the NBA for 12 years since graduating from Stanford. He was a first-round pick in 2001 by the Houston Rockets, and he’s currently with the Washington Wizards, though he will soon be a free agent. He’ll have to find a new home for himself; It shouldn’t be too hard as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has already said he would love to have the first out player on his team.
On February 23, 2014, Collins took the court for the Brooklyn Nets in the second quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, wearing number 98 to honor Matthew Shepard. It was his first game since coming out as gay.
In November 2014, Collins retired as a player from the NBA. Collins played 13 seasons in the league with six franchises including the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. He began and ended his career with the New Jersey / Brooklyn Nets. — Cyd Zeigler
We’ll have another LGBTQ Sports history story tomorrow and every day through Oct. 31.