NBA center Jason Collins authored a piece for Sports Illustrated today that began with three very powerful sentences: ”I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” Many have noted that this makes Collins the first openly gay male major American professional sports player and Collins explained that this is one of the reasons he felt it was time to speak. Collins wrote eloquently about his journey through the NBA, as well as his journey from keeping a big secret about himself to coming out and feeling comfortable in his own skin. The piece is incredibly honest and raw and Collins’ bravery has been praised all over the Internet this morning. Bill Clinton tweeted ”I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend,” the NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement ending, ”We are proud [Collins] has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,” and Jason Collins’ Twitter following has skyrocketed from about 4,000 to over 18,000 and growing.
However, along with praise there have been a number of ugly comments as well. The Sports Illustrated comments section is littered with posts of Collins’ ”sins, ”deviance,” and other homophobia. Although now, it looks like comments have been shut off on the story. In his writing, Collins joked ”… if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.”
The whole editorial is definitely worth a read (click over to SI here), here are five particularly powerful quotes:
1. “My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”
2. “I’m a veteran, and I’ve earned the right to be heard. I’ll lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones. I’m not the loudest person in the room, but I’ll speak up when something isn’t right. And try to make everyone laugh.”
3. “I celebrate being an African-American and the hardships of the past that still resonate today. But I don’t let my race define me any more than I want my sexual orientation to. I don’t want to be labeled, and I can’t let someone else’s label define me.”
4. “The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.”
5. “Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that Jason Collins was the first openly gay major professional athlete. It has been updated to say “male” athlete and major “American” sport. It should also be noted that Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly are both Time Inc. publications.