Meet The First Openly Gay Athlete Playing In A Major American Team Sport

34 year old center Jason Collins has become the first active player in a major American team sport to openly come out as 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
Collins wrote today in a piece for Sports Illustrated. “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.”

“No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time.”

For the most part, Collins has bounced around the league after being first drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2001, including stints at Memphis, New Jersey, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston and his most recent team, the Washington Wizards.

The reaction to the announcement, including many from his former and current teammates, has been overwhelming positive, with figures such as Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton, Spike Lee, Michelle Obama and Ellen commending Collins on his bravery.

We sincerely hope the Aussie do, too. As a reflection of the proportion of gay men in general society, it is statistically likely that there are dozens of professional athletes who are gay and currently playing in the AFL, NRL or A-League. Former Rugby League star Ian Roberts came out as gay in 1995, becoming the first active player in a major Australian team sport to do so (or since), but insists it is “almost a responsibility for footballers to come out”  because “it breaks down
stereotypes like nothing else, particularly for young men”
who “see only a limited depiction of gay people that they don’t fit.”

We don’t know if yet, but we’ve probably already met the second.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel for Getty Images Sport