‘I’m gay’: NBA player Jason Collins breaks barrier

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Some female athletes have found more acceptance in coming out; Brittney Griner, a two-time AP college basketball player of the year and the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, caused few ripples when she said this month she is a lesbian. Sheryl Swoopes, a former WNBA All-Star, came out in 2005 during her playing days.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova, who came out decades ago, tweeted Monday that Collins is “a brave man.”

“1981 was the year for me _ 2013 is the year for you,” her post said.

Collins told ABC that Navratilova was his role model.

“I look at her as one of my heroes. … Hopefully going forward I can be someone else’s role model,” Collins said.

Sports leagues in Britain and elsewhere in Europe have been trying to combat anti-gay bias. But the taboo remains particularly strong in soccer, where there are no openly gay players in Europe’s top leagues and homophobic chants are still heard at some games.

Soccer “is not going to change,” said Amaechi, who is English and now lives in Manchester. “If it wanted to change, it would change. It has the resources to do so. It doesn’t want to change.”

Justin Fashanu is the only significant British soccer player to have come out publicly, doing so in 1990. The former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker was found hanged in a London garage in 1998 at age 37. According to an inquest, Fashanu left a note saying that, because he was gay, he feared he wouldn’t get a fair trial in the United States on sexual assault charges. Maryland police were seeking him on charges that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy.

Among other athletes outside the U.S. to come out was Gareth Thomas, a Welsh rugby star who attracted widespread media attention in 2009 when he announced he was gay. He continued playing until retirement in 2011.

Orlando Cruz of Puerto Rico came out in October as the first openly gay professional male boxer. Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury came out six years after winning a gold medal in the backstroke at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Four-time Olympic diving gold medalist Greg Louganis of the U.S. revealed he was gay in 1994, a year before announcing he was also HIV-positive. Former Olympic skiing gold medalist Anja Paerson of Sweden announced last year, after retiring, that she was in a long-term relationship with a woman.

In SI, Collins recounts that the first relative he came out to was his aunt, Teri Jackson, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge.

“I don’t think Jason looked at his life as being a trailblazer,” Jackson said Monday. “He has no regrets coming out. And he wants to play. And we’ll see what happens next.”

Collins says he told his twin brother, Jarron, last summer. Jarron was also a longtime NBA center who last played in the league in the 2010-11 season.

“He was downright astounded,” Collins says.

Collins writes self-effacingly about his journeyman NBA career and a parlor game he calls “Three Degrees of Jason Collins,” explaining: “If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.”

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