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‘I’m gay’: NBA player Jason Collins breaks barrier
“Less than three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn’t say a thing,” he writes.
After being a first-round draft pick in 2001, Collins has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for the New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Celtics and Wizards. He’s come to be known more for personal fouls _ he led the league in that category one season _ than flourish.
“I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay? But I’ve always been an aggressive player, even in high school. Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn’t make you soft? Who knows? That’s something for a psychologist to unravel,” he says.
As for what response other NBA players will have to his revelation, Collins writes: “The simple answer is, I have no idea.”
“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out,” he says in his account, adding: “Still, if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.”
Former teammate Jerry Stackhouse, now with the Brooklyn Nets, wrote in a text to the AP: “I hope Jason is received well by our NBA family. … I’ve already reached out to him personally to show support and will encourage more guys to do the same.”
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.”
While Collins is the first male athlete in a major North American professional league to come out while intending to keep playing, several have previously spoken after they retired about being gay, including the NBA’s John Amaechi, the NFL’s Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball’s Billy Bean.
“I think he is immensely brave. I think it’s a shame in this day and age he has to be immensely brave, but he is,” Amaechi told the AP. “He’s going to be a remarkable and eloquent spokesperson for what it is to be a decent, authentic human being _ never mind just for gay people.”
Rick Welts, president and chief operating officer of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, is openly gay.
“He probably knows what he signed up for. There’ll be a whole bunch more television reporters and cameras than he’s probably had in the past. … There had been a long bit of speculation about when, who, how. I think that speculation has been put to rest now,” Welts said, “and we’ll always remember that Jason Collins was the first man to do this.”
Collins says that if he remains in the NBA, he could face uncomfortable reactions from spectators.
“I don’t mind if they heckle me. I’ve been booed before. There have been times when I’ve wanted to boo myself. But a lot of ill feelings can be cured by winning,” he writes.
In February, former U.S. soccer national team player Robbie Rogers said he was gay _ and retired at the same time. Rogers is just 25, and others have urged him to resume his career.
“I feel a movement coming,” he tweeted after word of Collins‘ news broke.
By John R. Bolton
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