- Oct 1, 2008
Read More: NBA player Jason Collins says he is gay - The Magazine - SI.comI'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.
I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."
A really nice, self-penned article by Collins. His coming out is a first for a major US sports team. The only other athlete to come out while still playing in a major sport - the three big US sports, and football and rugby in Europe - was Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas (the third most capped Welsh player in history):
Gareth Thomas | My family values | Sport | The Guardian
In what is proving to be quite a monumental period for gays - the times really are a-changing on this in the developed world - Collins' move has to be a great thing. But really, soccer is the big cahoona here if we're talking globally. We really need to see a major footballer come out for it to be a game-changer. I've heard there was talk recently of several UK-based players coming out together at the same time, which I think would be a fantastic idea. They should even try to co-ordinate it across several countries, with the full backing of clubs and FA's.
The fear of course is abuse from the terraces. But in this day and age I'd say even the most atavistic on England's football terraces would be too shamed to give them too hard a time. They know they'd make their clubs look terrible, and I suspect that after a few weeks the worst of the chanting would be through. Spreading the outing across as many teams and countries as possible would help of course. (Although, one imagines it would significantly easier for the English-based guys than those in Italy or, God help us, Russia.)
This last great prejudice is withering on the vine by the day, hallelujah. It's happening far quicker and with less resistance than I'd imagined (albeit, after forever.) Even in the US the tide has well and truly turned and it can't be too long now before the whole civilised world is, well, civilised on this.