|Out NBA player Jason Collins
In an open letter written for Sports Illustrated, Jason Collins has announced his retirement from the NBA.
In April 2013, the 13 year veteran became the first openly gay basketball player in the NBA. Although there was talk of the announcement ending his career, it did not. He went on to play last season with the Brooklyn Nets.
His first appearance on the court after coming out was an electrifying moment in sports history.
It has been 18 exhilarating months since I came out in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay man in one of the four major professional team sports. And it has been nine months since I signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of those leagues. It feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history.
On Wednesday at the Barclays Center, I plan to announce my retirement as an NBA player. The day will be especially meaningful for me because the Nets will be playing the Bucks, who are coached by Jason Kidd, my former teammate and my coach in Brooklyn. It was Jason who cheered my decision to come out by posting on Twitter: “Jason’s sexuality doesn’t change the fact that he is a great friend and was a great teammate.”
There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL or major league baseball. Believe me: They exist. Every pro sport has them. I know some of them personally. When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he’ll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he’s not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won’t be such a big deal. But we’re not there yet.
I met Jason earlier this year at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in Chicago. He spoke to the entire convention, and it was impossible to walk away without noting the ease and confidence with which Collins carried himself. He is clearly someone comfortable in his own skin.
Clearly it was that confidence that allowed him to make the decision to come out. And that decision paved the way for others to follow him out of the closet. From the Washington Post:
What Collins accomplished, however, was hardly irrelevant. His decision to bust through barriers has made it easier for other high-profile male athletes to do the same. In April of this year, the University of Massachusetts’s Derrick Gordon came out to become the first openly gay athlete in NCAA Division I basketball. And a month later, Michael Sam, who had announced he was gay shortly after the Super Bowl this year, became the first openly gay athlete to be drafted by the NFL. Both Sam and Gordon have credited Collins as inspiration for them to be themselves openly.
I look forward to what lies ahead in his journey.
Out NFL-er Michael Sam congratulated Collins on his long, successful career via Twitter: