NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as gay

2013-04-29T09:11:00Z 2013-04-29T10:37:59Z NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as gayThe Associated Press The Associated Press

NEW YORK — NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay.

The 34-year-old center, who has played for six teams in 12 seasons, wrote a first-person account that was posted on Sports Illustrated’s website Monday. Collins finished the season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to keep playing.

“If I had my way, someone else would have already done this,” he writes. “Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

Collins played in a Final Four for Stanford and reached two NBA Finals. His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Collins says he told his brother he was gay last summer.

“Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

Among those offering support on social media was former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, a friend from Stanford. She tweeted: “Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength & courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA.”

The White House is commending NBA veteran Jason Collins for becoming the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called that decision courageous and says the White House supports Collins. He says he hopes the 34-year-old center’s team will also offer support.

Carney says the White House views Collins’ decision as another example of progress and evolution in the U.S. as Americans grow more accepting of gay rights and same-sex marriage. Last year, during his re-election campaign, Obama announced his support for gay marriage.

Former President Bill Clinton is asking fans and colleagues of NBA player Jason Collins to support and respect him after Collins announced he is gay.

Clinton said in a statement Monday that he has known Collins since he attended Stanford University with his daughter Chelsea. He says Collins’ announcement posted on Sports Illustrated’s website is an “important moment” for professional sports.

He said Collins is “a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek — to be able to be who we are, to do our work, to build families and to contribute to our communities.”

Collins was also college roommates with another member of an American political dynasty: Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. In his account, Collins wrote that he realized he needed to go public when the congressman walked in Boston’s gay pride parade last year — and Collins couldn’t join him.

Kennedy tweeted Monday that “I’ve always been proud to call (Collins) a friend, and I’m even prouder to stand with him today.”

Mostly a backup in his career, Collins has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards. He was traded from Boston to Washington in February. Collins was the 18th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft.

Several male athletes have previously come out 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 keep playing.

Advocacy organization GLAAD released a statement from Aaron McQuade, who head of its sports program.

“‘Courage’ and ‘inspiration’ are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context,” he said. “We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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