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Jason Collins said he ‘‘endured years of misery and had gone to enormous lengths to live a lie.’’

Eric McCandless • ABC ,

Boston bombings swayed Collins

  • Article by: associated press
  • April 30, 2013 - 8:40 PM

Last summer, NBA veteran Jason Collins considered joining an old Stanford college roommate, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, at Boston’s gay pride parade.

Collins eventually decided he shouldn’t, because he wanted to keep his secret safe: For more than a decade as a professional athlete, he had remained silent about his sexuality, worried about what teammates, opponents, fans — the world, really — might think.

Then came the Boston Marathon bombings two weeks ago, which Collins says “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

So after having, he explains, “endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie,” Collins became the first active player in one of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues to come out as gay. He wrote a first-person article posted Monday on Sports Illustrated’s website that begins: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Most recently a little-used reserve center for the Wizards after a midseason trade from the Celtics, the 7-foot Collins is a free agent who can sign with any team. He wants to keep playing in the NBA.

And he plans to be in Boston on June 8, marching alongside Kennedy at the city’s 2013 gay pride parade.

“I didn’t doubt for a second, knowing he was gay, that he would be the one to do it,” said Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat. “I’ve never known him to look for publicity, or to look for the spotlight, but given that no one else would raise their hand, I knew he would do it.”

Added Kennedy: “I’m so proud of him. And I’m so proud to call him a friend.”

In an interview taped Monday and aired Tuesday morning, Collins told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player.”

any other gay NBA players.

Even while hiding his sexual orientation, Collins says, he quietly made a statement for gay rights by wearing No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards: 1998 was the year Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.

According to the General Social Survey, the public has grown increasingly accepting of gay relationships since the late 1980s. That survey found in 1987 that 76 percent of Americans thought sexual relations between adults of the same sex was morally wrong. That fell to 43 percent by 2012.

“I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted,” Collins writes in SI. “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.”

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