Jason Collins, the veteran Washington Wizards center has become the first professional across any of the major four sports in the United States to come out as gay. The 34-year old made the revelation via a first person account and interview with Sports Illustrated. In the modern age it may seem shocking that there are no openly gay men in Basketball, especially when the sport has dealt with other segregating issues in the past, such as race.
Collins is a 500 gamesveteran of the NBA and has played with the New Jersey Nets, the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Atlanta Hawks throughout his 12-year professional career.
Nearing the end of his career, Collins has held back his personal life probably for many of the reasons other gay men have not come out in Basketball. The fear of intolerance is still present, even in 2013, and while conceptions of homosexual relationships have eased in recent decades, it is still hard to be a gay man in a male dominated sport.
While never quite a journeyman, it would be fair to say that Jason Collins has never been at the pinnacle of Basketball, but now he can take on a new role. As the first active professional across the NFL, NHL, MLB, or the NBA to come out as gay, it is almost certain that the words role model will be spoken a lot when referencing Collins.
However, the motives of Jason Collins were not driven by political means, nor were they at the chagrin of sponsors, or to fulfil a commitment. It should also be added that thankfully he has not come out due to pressure from the media, this was a personal decision made for personal reasons. Indeed, it was through his strong Christian faith that Jason Collins found the path to openness and specifically a daily prayer Manual that focused on “freedom”.
“The clarion call of freedom sounds within my soul, trumpeting the truth that the love of God liberates me from unhappiness, hurt or fear. I bid farewell to any emptiness from the past, and open myself to realizing my heart’s deepest longing and aspiration.”
It was this call for freedom that prompted Collins to seek out Sports Illustrated to come out. Collins simply wanted to live as a free gay man, not alone, not coming home to an empty house, and not unable to enter into a normal relationship. While his public announcement is merely old news to those close to him, Collins has instantly become a shining light to all sportsmen, how the sport of Basketball accepts him from now on could determine if we will see more follow in the footsteps of Jason Collins.
Leading the chorus of approval is former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea schooled with Collins at Stanford. Clinto has released the following statement.
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.