The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract on Sunday, making him the first openly gay athlete to play in any of North America’s four major professional sports leagues, ESPN reports.
Collins came out last April in an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated, in which he discussed living a double life during the 12 years he had already spent in the NBA. “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.”
At the time he came out, Collins was a free agent, having just finished a season with the Washington Wizards. The 35-year-old center spent the first six and a half seasons of his career with the Nets, and has also played for the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics.
“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” Nets general manager Billy King said in a statement to ESPN. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”
“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”
Collins’ signing marks a major milestone for the NBA, and the landscape of American professional sports does seem to making its way toward a more inclusive culture. Michael Sam, the all-American defensive lineman at the University of Missouri who announced that he is openly gay earlier this month, is likely to be picked in the N.F.L. draft in May.
Collins will be in uniform tonight as the Nets face the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.
Watch Jason Collins’ First Appearance