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Congratulations
 
Congratulations to Jason Collins
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/25/14
Last updated on: 04/25/14
 
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Congratulations to Jason Collins on being named to Time magazine's "TIME 100" most influential people in the world and to President Obama's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. The first openly gay active player in the National Basketball Association, Collins is also featured on one of the Time's inside covers of the special issue to be published on April 26, 2014.

On April 23, 2014, Time revealed that Collins has been included among the magazine's eleventh annual "TIME 100" list of the world's most influential people. The profile on Collins is written by Chelsea Clinton, who was his friend and classmate at Stanford University.

Collin's appointment to the President's Council on Fitness, Nutrition, and Sports was announced in a White House press release of April 24, 2014. The press release noted that Collins joined the NBA in 2001, following his graduation from Stanford University, and that he has played for the Washington Wizards, the Boston Celtics, the Atlanta Hawks, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the New Jersey Nets. He currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets.

The press release also notes that Collins is a partner with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.

On April 29, 2013, Collins made history as the first professional athlete in a major American team sport to come out while still playing. In the cover story of the May 6, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated, Collins wrote, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

He continued, "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."

"My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons. I've played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you're in the league, and I haven't been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates' teammates. Or one of your teammates' teammates' teammates."

In his wide-ranging essay, Collins recalled that the first relative he came out to was his aunt Teri, a judge in San Francisco. She told him, "I've known you were gay for years." Her casual acceptance encouraged him to come out to other relatives, including a gay uncle, and his twin brother Jarron, also an NBA player.

But, he said, "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."

In the Sports Illustrated essay, Collins also explained the pain he felt in the closet, the toll taken by having to live a lie. He revealed that he made a small gesture of solidarity with the gay community by insisting on wearing the number 98 on his jersey in honor of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998.

Fittingly, when Collins joined the Brooklyn Nets this year, he also was given a jersey with the number 98.

Although Collins was the first active NBA player to come out, former NBA player John Amaechi came out in 2007, four years after his retirement. During his playing career, Amaechi was aware of speculation about his sexual orientation. He even called his homosexuality "an open secret" among sports writers; nevertheless, he did not make any public declaration about it because of possible negative reaction from other players or coaches. "It would be like an alien dropping down from space," he said. "There'd be fear, then panic. They just wouldn't know how to handle it."

News of Collins's announcement, however, prompted almost unanimous praise. President Bill Clinton lauded the player's courage and issued the following statement: "I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community."

He added, "It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned."

In the video below, Collins speaks of those who have been influential on him. Among them are tennis legend Martina Navratilova.

 
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