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Jason Collins first U.S. pro sports athlete to come out as gay

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” So begins a Sports Illustrated article by Jason Collins, an 11-year NBA journeyman who now plays center for the Wizards.

He came out as queer due to the 2011 NBA lockout causing him to think about life priorities without the distraction of basketball. Also, the Boston bombings affected his decision. He wrote the attacks “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

As a tough foul-friendly NBA centre, Collins says he doesn’t fit the the gay stereotype, “which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay?”

He adds, “Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn’t come out sooner. When I signed a free-agent contract with Boston last July, I decided to commit myself to the Celtics and not let my personal life become a distraction. When I was traded to the Wizards, the political significance of coming out sunk in. I was ready to open up to the press, but I had to wait until the season was over.”

When asked how his teammates may react to his coming-out, he says he has no clue about their reactions. “I’m a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I’ve taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn’t an issue before, and it won’t be one now. My conduct won’t change.”

Already, NBA stars are voicing their support for Collins’ decision, such as Kobe Bryant’s recent tweet:

Unexpectedly, former U.S. president Bill Clinton weighed in on Collins. “I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford,” Clinton said in a statement. “Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.

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