Courtesy USA Today Sports.
Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, is the first active male athlete in a major American team sport to come out as a gay.
Collins made the announcement in a first-person essay for Sports Illustratedthat appeared online Monday.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote in the first paragraph of the story that will run in the May 6 issue. It is co-written with Franz Lidz.
"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."
Collins is a free agent who finished this past season with the Washington Wizards. He wants to continue his career.
"When I was younger I dated women," Collins wrote. "I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue."
NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement: "Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld also issued a statement, saying: "We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career."
Kobe Bryant tweeted: "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"
Bryant's Laker teammate Steve Nash also offered his support tweeting: The time has come. Maximum respect.
Statement From Former President Bill Clinton:
I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.