Support Pours in for Out Athlete Jason Collins
Just hours after basketball veteran Jason Collins revealed he is gay in a first-person account on Sports Illustrated’s website on Monday, supporters rushed to social media websites and made statements lauding the 34-year-old athlete for his decision to come out.
Former President Bill Clinton issued a statement saying that he’s known Collins since he was a student at Stanford and friends with his daughter, Chelsea.
"Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community," Clinton said. "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."
Clinton also urged fans and colleagues to support and respect the basketball player, who has played for six teams in 12 seasons. Collins currently plays for the Washington Wizards after being traded from the Boston Celtics in February.
Clinton called Collins’ revelation an "important moment" for professional sports. The former president said the athlete is "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." He also tweeted, "I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend." Chelsea echoed her father’s sentiments when she tweeted, "Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength & courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA."
Collins’ announcement made international headlines on Monday as he made history and broke down a sports barrier for being the first out male athlete in a major professional sport.
"I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins wrote in his Sports Illustrated piece. "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."
Washington Supports Collins
White House spokesman Jay Carney called his decision courageous. He added that the White House supports him and hopes Collins’ teammates will do the same. "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.
The NBA star received support from Rep. Joe Kennedy III, (D-Mass.), who was his college roommate. Kennedy tweeted on Monday that, "I’ve always been proud to call (Collins) a friend, and I’m even prouder to stand with him today." The politician also released a separate statement and said Collins has "the biggest heart you will ever find" and that "he gives everything he’s got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life."
Collins said that Kennedy’s participation in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade helped push him to come out.
"I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy," he wrote in Sports Illustrated. "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."
Russell Simmons, the business magnate who is the co-founder of the hip-hop label Def Jam, weighed in and tweeted, "proud of Washington Wizards’ player Jason Collins (@JasonCollins34) for coming out. We will stand with you as you continue on your journey." Simmons made similar remarks when R&B superstar Frank Ocean wrote an open letter on his Tumblr and revealed that he’s had a relationship with a man.