NBA Center Jason Collins made history on Monday by becoming the first openly gay male active professional athlete in a major team sport, when he wrote an op-ed essay for Sports Illustrated disclosing his sexuality to the public for the first time.
In his first exclusive interview with the media, Collins, 34, sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, saying that being the first active male athlete to come out and say he’s gay is “mind-boggling” and that he hopes others will follow his example.
“I never set out to be the first,” Collins said. “You’re sort of waiting around for somebody else to, you know, raise their hand, and I’m ready to raise my hand, but you still look around like ‘OK, come on, guys.’ It’s time for someone else in the room to raise their hand and say, ‘You know what? Yeah, so big deal. I can still play basketball. I can still help the team win, and that’s what’s most important.’”
In his piece for SI, Collins talked about a number of different reasons for coming out, including the recent Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality and that his former college roommate, Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy, was openly supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by marching in the 2012 Boston Gay Pride parade, saying:
“I was proud of [Kennedy] for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too.’”
The basketball player’s coming out was met with a flurry of support from fellow athletes and the NBA, the White House and a handful of celebrities.
David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, issued a statement calling Collins an “exemplary member” of the NBA and that they are “proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”
Collins, who has played in the NBA for 12 seasons and is now a free agent, wrote in his coming out essay, “I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful."
Watch Collins’ exclusive one-on-one interview with George Stephanopoulos below: