NBA free agent Jason Collins, who played his college ball at Stanford and has been bouncing around the league for the past 12 years, came out in a Sports Illustrated cover story today. "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center," the essay begins. "I'm black. And I'm gay."
Collins, 34, wrote a moving, personal essay for the magazine in which he discusses his family history, his career, and his plans for the future. It's a brave step, to say the least, and it's worth a read in full. There's no blueprint for this sort of move in men's professional sports, of course, but Collins's choice allowed him to tell his story in his own words. (Plus, he doesn't have to deal with Internet commenters.) From the piece:
As I write this, I haven't come out to anyone in the NBA. I'm not privy to what other players say about me. Maybe Mike Miller, my old teammate in Memphis, will recall the time I dropped by his house in Florida and say, "I enjoyed being his teammate, and I sold him a dog." I hope players swap stories like that. Maybe they'll talk about my character and what kind of person I am.
As far as the reaction of fans, 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.
I'm a veteran, and I've earned the right to be heard. I'll lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones. I'm not the loudest person in the room, but I'll speak up when something isn't right. And try to make everyone laugh.
I've never sought the spotlight. Though I'm coming out to the world, I intend to guard my privacy. I'm making this blanket statement in part to keep rumors and misunderstandings at bay. I hope fans will respect me for raising my hand. And I hope teammates will remember that I've never been an in-your-face kind of guy. All you need to know is that I'm single. I see no need to delve into specifics.
This is a feel-good moment, people. We live in a historical moment in which a gay professional basketball player is comfortable coming out as Jason Collins.