A National Basketball Association player has become the first active player in a major professional U.S. team sport to reveal he is homosexual.
Free-agent center Jason Collins revealed he is gay in the cover article for this week's Sports Illustrated magazine. He wrote he did not "set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," but he is "happy to start the conversation."
Collins said he first was inspired to reveal his sexuality last year when his straight (heterosexual) friend and roommate at Stanford University, U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy, marched in Boston's Gay Pride parade. But this month's twin bombings at the Boston Marathon finally convinced him that he "shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect."
Collins received an outpouring of support Monday from across the nation.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league was " proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue." President Barack Obama personally called Collins to offer his support, and White House spokesman Jay Carney called the revelation another example of the change in attitude in the U.S. towards homosexuality.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton issued a statement calling Collins' announcement "an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT ((Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender)) community. Mr. Clinton's daughter Chelsea was also a friend of Collins at Stanford University.
Several male athletes in major U.S. pro sports have revealed they are gay after they retired, including the NBA's John Amaechi, the NFL's Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball's Billy Bean. But Collins is the first to do so while planning to continue playing.
The 34-year-old Collins played the past season with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards and has played for six NBA teams during his 12-year career.