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NBA Veteran Jason Collins Comes Out as Gay

Updated: Monday, April 29 2013, 07:45 PM EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first active male
player in the four major American professional sports to come out as
gay.

The 34-year-old center, who has played for six teams in 12
seasons, wrote a first-person account that was posted on Sports
Illustrated's website Monday. Collins finished the season with the
Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to keep
playing.

"If I had my way, someone else would have already done this," he writes. "Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

Collins
played in a Final Four for Stanford and reached two NBA Finals. His
twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Collins says he
told his brother he was gay last summer.

"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," NBA
Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

White House
spokesman Jay Carney called the decision courageous and former President
Bill Clinton said it was "an important moment for professional sports
and in the history of the LGBT community."

"I hope that everyone,
particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans
extend to him their support and the respect he has earned," Clinton
added.

Daughter Chelsea, who knew the player from Stanford,
tweeted: "Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength
& courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA."

Collins
was also college roommates with another member of an American political
dynasty: Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. In his account, Collins wrote
that he realized he needed to go public when the congressman walked in
Boston's gay pride parade last year - and Collins couldn't join him.

Kennedy tweeted Monday that "I've always been proud to call (Collins) a friend, and I'm even prouder to stand with him today."

Mostly
a backup in his career, Collins has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8
rebounds for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and
Wizards. He was traded from Boston to Washington in February. Collins
was the 18th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft.

Several NBA players voiced support, including Kobe Bryant, who tweeted that he was proud of Collins.

"Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," his post said, followed by the words "courage" and "support."

Wizards
President Ernie Grunfeld weighed in saying: "We are extremely proud of
Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. 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."

Several male athletes have previously come out
after they retired, including the NBA's John Amaechi, the NFL's Esera
Tuaolo and Major League Baseball's Billy Bean. But Collins is the first
to do so while planning to keep playing.

Collins wrote that he
quietly made a statement for gay rights even while keeping his sexual
orientation a secret. He wore the No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards -
that was the year Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was
killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was
founded.

" `Courage' and `inspiration' are words that get thrown
around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand
new context," said Aaron McQuade, who heads the sports program for the
advocacy group GLAAD, "We hope that his future team will welcome him,
and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know
that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT
Athletes now have a new hero."

In February, former U.S. soccer
national team player Robbie Rogers said he was gay - and retired at the
same time. Rogers is just 25, and others have urged him to resume his
career.

"I feel a movement coming," he tweeted after the Collins news broke.

Female
athletes have found more acceptance in coming out; Brittney Griner, one
of the best women's basketball players, caused little ripple when she
acknowledged earlier this month she was a lesbian. Tennis great Martina
Navratilova tweeted Monday that Collins is "a brave man."

"1981 was the year for me- 2013 is the year for you," her post added.

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Web Producer: Ken HinesNBA Veteran Jason Collins Comes Out as Gay


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