|NBA center Jason Collins has come out on the cover of the May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated.|
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
Those are the very first words by 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins from his essay in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, making him the first openly-gay male athlete playing in a major-league sport in North America.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins continues. "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."
And after writing, hoping and wishing for this very moment for many years, all I can say is "Wow!"
And congratulations to Jason Collins who has now become one of my all-time favourite athletes.
"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade," Collins writes. "I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.'"
Adds Collins, "The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Less then three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn't say a thing. I didn't want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing."
Collins - who played for both the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards in the 2012-13 season - is currently an NBA free agent.
"I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay? But I've always been an aggressive player, even in high school," Collins says. "Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn't make you soft? Who knows? That's something for a psychologist to unravel. My motivations, like my contributions, don't show up in box scores, and frankly I don't care about stats. Winning is what counts. I want to be evaluated as a team player."
Collins writes that he is ready to be the first openly-gay athlete playing in a major North American team sport.
"As far as the reaction of fans, I don't mind if they heckle me," Collins notes. "I've been booed before. There have been times when I've wanted to boo myself. But a lot of ill feelings can be cured by winning.
"I'm a veteran, and I've earned the right to be heard. I'll lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones. I'm not the loudest person in the room, but I'll speak up when something isn't right. And try to make everyone laugh."
Read the entire essay from the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated by clicking here.
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