NBA's Collins reveals he is gay
Washington Wizards center Jason Collins has announced he is gay, becoming the first active male player in a major American team sport to come out.
Collins, 34, revealed in an editorial for Sports Illustrated that he had decided to disclose his sexuality in order to progress in his personal life.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote. "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation.
"I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
Collins added that he is hopeful team-mates and fans will embrace his decision to come out, but is ready to face whatever reaction he may get at arenas around the country.
"I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003," he said. "The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted. And yet we still have so much farther to go. Everyone is terrified of the unknown, but most of us don't want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against."
Collins, who has a twin brother, Jarron, has played in two NBA Finals during his career - and teams including the New Jersey Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. He is now a free agent looking for a team for next year, after the Wizards' season ended with them failing to reach the playoffs.
Collins is the first active NBA player to come out. Former Orlando Magic & Great Britain center John Amaechi revealed his homosexuality shortly after retiring from professional sports.
Former United States midfielder Robbie Rogers also recently came out, in the process announcing his retirement from professional football.
"This is uncharted territory, and no one can predict how it will play out," Jarron Collins told Sports Illustrated. "It's a big deal - but it's also not a big deal. When the media crush is over, Jason will have the strength to deal with whatever challenges come from being openly gay."
Former US president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea attended Stanford University at the same time as Collins, paid tribute to the player's bravery.
"Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community," Clinton said. "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."
The immediate reaction from players was positive, with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tweeting: "Proud of Jason Collins. Don't suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others."