NBA player Jason Collins becomes first openly gay male professional athlete playing in America

Collins comes out in Sports Illustrated

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

The 34-year-old, who appeared in 32 games this season for the Celtics and is now a free agent, told Sports Illustrated:

"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 said the NBA player lockout in 2011 "wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want."

Collins continued, "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

After Collins' announcement, several athletes, politicians and celebrities showed their support on Twitter.

Kobe Bryant tweeted: "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"

Former President Bill Clinton tweeted: "I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend."

Michael Strahan, former NFL defensive end, tweeted: "So proud of @jasoncollins34 for having the courage to stand up and out for who he is. I support, respect and salute you!!"

Collins' story appears in the May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated.

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