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Jason Collins Opens the Sports Closet

The NBA’s first active gay player comes out to praise and support

Jason Collins took a step Monday that professional sports has been anticipating for years. After keeping silent for over 12 years, the Washington Wizards center has come out as gay.

Collin’s first-person account of his life and motives for coming out appeared on Sports Illustrated’s website and immediatly garnered national attention. In one day, he went from a basketball player to a trailblazer for the LGBT community. Though it wasn’t necessarily a role that he wanted.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins wrote. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

While it is true that other professional athletes have come out, Collins is the first active player to come out in one of the four major American leagues: NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB. Robbie Rodgers, an American soccer player, also recently came out.

Many have speculated for years on who it would be to break the taboo, and now that it’s finely happened, the questions have turned to how this will affect professional sports. The reaction right now has been highly positive and supportive. Collins has been praised for his courage by other players, such as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and has even received a call from President Obama.

Collins says that his reasons for coming out have nothing to do with taking a political stance. “I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful,” he wrote.

What will come next for Collins and pro sports remains up in the air. As a free agent, Collins is searching for where the he’ll be next season.

“I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball,” he said.

Clearly, he is not ready for his career to be over. And with all the recent headlines, next season will probably find him on the court somewhere.

As for the future of gays in professional sports? Who knows? Collins hopes that his example will lead others to accept themselves and follow his lead if that’s what makes them happy. There’s not likely to be an outpouring of confessions. But Collins proves that the world is changing, and soon gay athletes will be as commonplace.

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