34-year-old NBA player takes leap of faith, comes out

At least 27 athletes from Olympians to Little League players have publically declared being gay or lesbian in the past few years. However, none of those have been a part of a major team sport while they were still playing. Now, that has finally changed.

NBA center Jason Collins has become the first male U.S. athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay

The 34-year-old free agent who played with the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics this past season told Sports Illustrated that he felt compelled to share his story.

“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different,’” said Collins. “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

Collins revealed that he tried living the straight life for a while but was chasing the wind.

“When I was younger, I dated women,” said Collins. “I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.”

Regardless of his reasoning, Collins’ move is unprecedented for the NBA according to David Walters, sports information director, who recognized this as a historic moment.

“The paucity of players coming out may simply be a reflection of the lack of gays and lesbians in the sports world,” said Walters in an email interview. “It may also be a reflection of some kind of barrier that precludes folks from coming out. I don’t know how to tell the difference, especially on such an intensely personal matter.”

Senior Daniel Gaskin, a self-described sports enthusiast, said that while there might be public applause, he is not sure everything was rainbows and butterflies.

“I can assuredly say that Collins is catching hell in the locker rooms,” said Gaskin. “Who was convinced it would be years before a professional athlete would ever come out as being gay?”

Even as the Obamas sung praises for the courage it took to come out, some people like junior Rose McIntyre wondered why the media frenzy was so male-centric.

“There are several out professional female athletes,” said McIntyre. “But they are not taken into consideration because of male dominance in the media.”

Male dominance aside, community leaders like State Representative Marcus Brandon, the only openly gay member of the North Carolina General Assembly, told The Guilfordian he is grateful for Collins’ honesty regarding his personal life.

“I think his courage continues to move the conversation on LGBT equality and acceptance,” said Brandon. “Based on the comments from his teammates and other sport professionals, there could not be a better representative to move this conversation forward.”

Brandon suggested Collins’ move was one of the biggest moments in the fight for LGBT equality.

While homophobic comments made on blog threads at sites like The Huffington Post and CNN suggest bigotry is alive in the minds of some, Parker Ramey, a former Guilford student and graduating member of a gay fraternity at Ohio State University, senses the tide is shifting.

“The changing climate in America has made it more acceptable for athletes to come out and not fear backlash from both other players and from fans,” said Ramey.

While Collins’ story plays out in the court of public opinion, only time will tell what the true implications of his personal story will have.

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