NBA center Jason Collins comes out as first openly gay athlete in major sports

Jason Collins 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. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Jason Collins, a 34-year-old center in the National Basketball Association, is the first openly gay athlete in major American sports. Collins wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated detailing his decision to come out now, while still playing in the NBA.

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 has played for New Jersey, Memphis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston and Washington. He's currently a free agent and wants to continue to play professional basketball. He first came out to his aunt and says that the recent NBA lockout played a role in his decision to come out. Congressman Joe Kennedy, Collins' roommate at Stanford, also had a profound influence on Collins' decision to come out.

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him 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 landmark announcement comes as many speculate that there are a number of NFL players who might come out soon. [Sports Illustrated]