NBA center Jason Collins became the first current athlete in a major American sports league to come out as gay, writing in Sports Illustrated, "I'm black. And I'm gay."
In a new piece with Franz Lidz for the May 6th issue, the veteran player opens up about his sexuality. "I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different,'" Collins wrote. "If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
The 34-year-old center's announcement comes after months of speculation that an athlete in one of America's four major sports would come out publicly. Just a few weeks ago, the National Hockey League partnered with the You Can Play Project for the most comprehensive campaign by a sports league in support of gay rights.
In the piece, Collins discusses coming out to family and some friends, while living something of a double life during his 12-years in the NBA, as well as his time as a basketball player in high school and college. In fact, it was Collins' old Stanford roommate Joseph Kennedy, currently a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, who helped the center realize he had to go public after feeling upset that he couldn't march alongside his friend during Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade.
"What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride," Collins said. "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.'"
Collins, who is now a free agent after finishing this past NBA season with the Washington Wizards, added that loyalty to his team and not wanting to become a distraction was the real reason he didn't come out earlier. But when the Supreme Court began hearing arguments for and against same-sex marriage in March, "the strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable," Collins wrote.
As for reactions from players and fans, Collins said that as a pragmatist he hopes for the best but prepares for the worst: He noted that he's been heckled by crowds before, and if he's confronted by an intolerant player, he wrote, "I'll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on."
"The more people who speak out, the better, gay or straight," Collins wrote. "It starts with President Obama's mentioning the 1969 Stonewall riots, which launched the gay rights movement, during his second inaugural address. And it extends to the grade-school teacher who encourages her students to accept the things that make us different."