There has been talk in major sports during the past few months that up to four gay NFL players would be coming out in the near future. Although past NFL players have come out after their careers have ended, it has yet to happen in the public sphere while a player is still on a team.
With so much talk about the NFL, no one stopped to think about the NBA. Sports Illustrated changed the game Monday morning when they announced the cover for their next issue.
The cover reads: "I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay."
With the announcement, Collins becomes the first openly gay player in a major American team sport.
"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," NBA player Jason Collins says in the article. "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."
The player has been in the league for more than a decade. By professional sports standards, his career may be winding down. But that doesn’t make the announcement any less important.
"I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want," he said. "And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful."
Collins plays for the Washington Wizards, and though it will likely make a wave, he knows he has the support of his family and teammates.
"I didn't come out to my brother until last summer," he said. "His reaction to my breakfast revelation was radically different from Aunt Teri's. He was downright astounded. He never suspected. So much for twin telepathy. But by dinner that night, he was full of brotherly love. For the first time in our lives, he wanted to step in and protect me."
But for Collins, being in a world where his sexuality isn’t accepted publicly, it took him a little longer to realize who he is.
"Imagine you're in the oven, baking," he explained. "Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years."
Collins’ Sports Illustrated interview will be on newsstands May 6.
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