NBA center Jason Collins has become the first athlete in a major American team sport to come out as gay during his playing career. In a personal essay set to publish in Sports Illustrated, Collins begins, “I’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,” he continues. “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.”
Previously, Collins wore No. 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a student at Wyoming who was tortured and murdered just outside of Laramie, Wyo., in October of 1998. During the trial, reports indicated that Sheppard was targeted because he was a gay man.