Jason Collins became the first professional athlete in the four major American sports leagues to come out as gay this morning. Collins is currently an NBA free agent, but played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards last year.
“Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn’t come out sooner,” Collins wrote in a piece for this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, explaining that he didn’t want his “personal life” to “become a distraction.” He said he has “no idea” how other players will react to his coming out. ”I’m a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” he wrote.
NBA commissioner David Stern released a brief statement following the announcement: “Jason Collins 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.” Other NBA players, including Jason’s twin brother Jarron, have also voiced support.
Bill Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, was friends with Collins while both were at Stanford, also released a statement, calling Collins’s decision “an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.”
Earlier this month in a HuffPo Live interview, eleven-time NBA-champion coach Phil Jackson called a question about a gay player “ridiculous.” “None of us have probably ever seen it in all our careers,” Jackson said. “There’s no inclusiveness to be had. I’ve never run into it in all my career.”