NBA player Jason Collins penned an open letter to announce that he is gay, the first openly gay pro athlete in America.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins wrote. ”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.”
So far, Collins seems to be getting the applause and praise he deserves for his bravery. Ellen DeGeneres, who knows how difficult it can be to come out in the public eye, showed Collins support during a monologue on her daytime talk show.
“You’re an incredible role model, Because of you, there is a little boy playing basketball right now who knows that he can be who he is and play the sport that he loves,” DeGeneres said. “If you’re gay, it shouldn’t stop you from being anything you want to be, whether it’s a Washington Wizard or regular wizard. So thank you, Jason. You did an incredible thing, most importantly for yourself but also for your sport and for everyone, and I dedicate this dance right here to you.”
Collins even sought out advice from Lance Bass, the former boy-bander who had a very public coming out in 2006, when he became the cover story for People magazine.
“[Collins] has been trying to plan this for a very long time, contemplating if he wanted to do this. In fact, he said he was going to call me months ago but was too scared, because he wanted to tell me,” Bass said, adding that he advised Collins to get involved with GLAAD because of his limited connection to the LGBT community. “He’s going to get some really good information before he does these sit-downs, so he doesn’t put his foot in his mouth, say something that he’s going to regret, because this will live [on] for the rest of his life, and he’ll always have the first sit-down to look back on — and he wants to make sure it’s good.”
In his letter, Collins opens up about coming out to his family and his quiet tribute to a hate crime victim. Read his entire letter here.