When Jason Collins, an NBA player for the Boston Celtics, wore the number 98 last season , sports fans would have thought nothing of it. Collins’ journeyman status in the league probably led most to believe that wearing the number 98 meant the team he played for just ran out of numbers to assign.
What we didn’t know is that Jason Collins picked the number 98 for a particularly special reason. He wore that number in honor of Matthew Shepard, the college student beaten and ultimately killed for being gay in 1998.
Today, Collins wrote an article for Sports Illustrated stating, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” He is male-professional sports’ first current and active athlete to come out. I have nothing but joy.
That moment when two things you care deeply about collide in a good way and you exhale. That moment when you hug your son and share the news. That brief moment of hope that infuses an otherwise weary soul. This is me, right now, typing with tears streaming down my face.
Collins wrote, “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.”
And if there was a question about what the reaction would be amongst that brotherhood of the NBA, here are just a few tweets sharing the reaction from some folks on twitter:
I could paste in several more responses like this, positive, supportive, non-judgmental responses from some of the top athletes in the world. Who said the NBA had to be a breeding ground for homophobia? It may just be that there is a certain level of projection from the old-boys-club sports media on homophobia being rampant in sports, because judging by the news and reactions, I just don’t see it. Things are changing rapidly and for the better.
Today, I can finally say, is a good day. Thank you to Jason Collins for your bravery.