Jason Collins in a game against the Chicago Bulls. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jason Collins in a game against the Chicago Bulls. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For years now it has seemed like only a matter of time. And now it has happened.

In Sports Illustrated essay published online Monday, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first male athlete to come out as gay while playing in major-league U.S. sports.

He writes:

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. 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.

Collins wore the No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards, he writes, because that was the year Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.

A native of Los Angeles who attended Stanford University, Collins is the nephew of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri L. Jackson.

Collins, 34, has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing.

The topic of gay athletes has become a hot one, with rumors swirling about the possibility that other professional athletes would soon come out.

A White House spokesman issued a statement supporting Collins, The Associated Press reports:

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 NBA colleagues will also offer support. “We view that as another example of the progress that has been made and the evolution that has been taking place in this country,” Carney said.

NBA Commissioner David Stern had similar sentiments, according to CBS:

As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and [his twin brother] Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. 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.

Reactions from Twitter:

The AP provided some background on gay athletes:

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. …

In February, former U.S. soccer national team player Robbie Rogers said he was gay — and retired at the same time. Rogers is just 25, and others have urged him to resume his career.

“I feel a movement coming,” he tweeted after the Collins news broke.

Female athletes have found more acceptance in coming out; Brittney Griner, one of the best women’s basketball players in the world, caused little ripple when she acknowledged earlier this month she was a lesbian.

NBA Player, Stanford Alum Jason Collins Comes Out as Gay; Reactions From Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, More … 29 April,2013Laird Harrison

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