NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Forward as First Gay Professional Athlete

Over the last few months there have been conversations about professional athletes being gay and if it would be accepted in the sports world for one to come forward and admit being gay. Many organizations and players have come forward to support gay rights and LGBT support organizations, causing speculation that an athlete would finally come out. Many predicted it would happen sooner than later, and it looks like experts in sports journalism were correct. Southern California raised Jason Collins of the NBA has come forward which should allow those discussions of acceptance by athletes to take center stage. Jason Collins comes forward in the new issue of Sports Illustrated, you can read some of his story after the jump.

By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated

The dining room table of Jason Collins’ home features an interesting centerpiece. A Celtics game ball balances atop a leather holder. Paul Pierce presented Collins with the ball after Pierce went for 40 in Boston’s defeat of the Cavaliers last Dec. 19. Collins, the starting center that night, had one point, didn’t attempt a field goal and fouled out in 23 minutes. But he set screens, grabbed rebounds, blocked a shot, protected the paint and played unrelenting team defense.

Collins features the ball prominently in his home, he says, because it is a metaphor for his NBA career. While he’s started almost 500 games — including six in the NBA Finals a decade ago — he’s made his bones as a durable, physical, flourish-free big man, capable of having an impact on a game without touching the ball. “I’m the guy on the court who doesn’t like to draw attention to himself, who wants to lead by example,” he said last week. “I’ve just been a guy who’s accepted his role.”

Now, his role takes on an entirely new dimension. Last Wednesday Collins invited two Sports Illustrated writers to his home. With both solemnity and humor (as well as a nervous pause to make sure his backyard pool wasn’t overflowing), he began crafting today’s account, a public declaration that he is gay.

At some point the idea of having no openly gay athletes in a league might sound as unimaginable as a ball field segregated by race. But today Collins becomes the first active male athlete in a major U.S. team sport to come out of the closet. Yes, that’s a lot of qualifiers. Yes, it may be an artificial construct. But it is a milestone. Tens of thousands of men have played in the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. Until today none had expressed his homosexuality before retirement.

Collins didn’t do this to make a political statement, much less to satisfy a sponsor. To his great relief, he didn’t do it under duress; that is, he wasn’t outed or “caught” by the smartphone paparazzi, “a fear that has trailed, trust me,” he said more than once, “this is not a choice.”

Collins is deeply religious and he took it as a sign when, on Wednesday morning, he read from a daily prayer manual his grandmother had given him. The day’s entry was titled “Freedom” and read:

“The clarion call of freedom sounds within my soul, trumpeting the truth that the love of God liberates me from unhappiness, hurt or fear. I bid farewell to any emptiness from the past, and open myself to realizing my heart’s deepest longing and aspiration.”

Omens aside, Collins had simply grown tired. Tired of being alone; tired of coming home to an empty house; tired of relying on Shadow, his German shepherd, for company; tired of watching friends and family members find spouses and become parents; tired of telling lies and half-truths — “cover stories like a CIA spy,” he says with his distinctive cackle — to conceal that he’s gay. He was also tired of … being tired. For most of his life, he’s had trouble sleeping, which he attributes to struggles with his sexuality.

He’s known “forever” that he’s gay. But until last year it was personal, don’t-go-there territory.

“I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue,” he writes in this week’s cover story for Sports Illustrated. Last summer, at 33, he finally came out to a small group of family members and friends, though none of them is in the NBA. Bolstered by their unconditional support, he decided he was ready, at 34, to go public. “Now,” he says, “it’s time to live my life genuinely.”

Barely five minutes into a wide-ranging, hours-long conversation, Collins expressed a debt of gratitude for the other athletes, gay and straight, who helped accelerate this climate change…[Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-reveals-gay-nba-interview/#ixzz2RsHtYeqQ]

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