Former Celtic Collins blazes new trail for athletes with big announcement
It isn’t easy to be a trailblazer, to do something controversial that no one has ever done before. It is even harder to be the first to do something when you are in a public spotlight.
On Monday, NBA center Jason Collins became a trailblazer when he announced he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated, thereby becoming the first active player in a major U.S. team sport to come out publicly.
Collins, a former Celtic who was traded to the Washington Wizards in February, decided to make the announcement after the Boston marathon bombings. Collins wrote in Sports Illustrated that he wanted to come out after his friend, Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride parade but was waiting for the timing to be perfect to make the announcement. After the marathon bombings two weeks ago, Collins said he realized the timing may never be perfect.
“Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?” Collins wrote. “When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013 [at the Gay Pride parade]. We’ll be marching on June 8.”
Collins’ move is a brave one. As a free agent, Collins needs a team to sign him in order to continue his NBA career. In a country where gay rights plays a large role in politics and elections, Collins’ decision to come out as an openly gay man may spark more media attention than some NBA teams are looking to deal with because of a 34-year-old free agent.
On the flip side, Collins’ decision to come out could show a type of bravery and toughness that may make him attractive to other teams.
Regardless of where or if he signs, however, Collins sets a precedent for other players in sports today and generations of athletes to come. The You Can Play Project, an organization that works to promote acceptance of and equality for gay athletes at any level, preaches the motto: “If you can play, you can play.” Thanks to Collins, in male professional team sports now, that motto is more than just words.