April 29, 2013

NBA center Jason Collins comes out as gay

The Associated Press

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Boston Celtics center Jason Collins battles Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) for a rebound during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in Los Angeles. NBA veteran center Collins has become the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay. Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday, April 29, 2013 on Sports Illustrated's website. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

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Jason Collins

The Associated Press

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According to the General Social Survey, the public has grown increasingly accepting of gay relationships since the late 1980s. That survey found in 1987 that 76 percent of Americans thought sexual relations between adults of the same sex was morally wrong. That fell to 43 percent by 2012.

"I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted," Collins writes. "And yet we still have so much farther to go. Everyone is terrified of the unknown, but most of us don't want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against."

While some gay athletes have talked in the past about concerns that coming out would hurt their earning potential, 12-time Grand Slam singles champion King said she thinks Collins' openness could have the opposite effect.

"I have a feeling he's got a whole new career," King said. "I have a feeling he's going to make more in endorsements than he's ever made in his life."

Sports equipment maker Nike released a statement Monday saying: "We admire Jason's courage and are proud that he is a Nike athlete. Nike believes in a level playing field where an athlete's sexual orientation is not a consideration."

On Monday evening, hours after his story appeared on the web, Collins wrote on Twitter: "All the support I have received today is truly inspirational. I knew that I was choosing the road less traveled but I'm not walking it alone."

Momentum has been building toward this sort of announcement from a pro athlete in a top league in the United States. NFL players Brendan Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe were outspoken in support of state gay-marriage amendments during last year's elections. Obama spoke about his support for gay marriage during his re-election campaign.

The topic made waves during Super Bowl week when one player, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, said he wouldn't welcome a gay member of his team. At the time, Ayanbadejo estimated that at least half of the NFL's players would agree with what Culliver said, at least privately.

Scott Fujita, who recently retired after an 11-year NFL career, said: "I'm pleased to see such an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this news, because it just shows that we're becoming more accepting every day. But more than anything else, I'm happy for Jason. I'm not a gay, closeted athlete, so I can't pretend to know what that must have felt like for him. But I imagine this is freeing for him, and hopefully he's encouraged by the millions of people who are voicing their support. ... It's not a reaction to some rumor and it's not some unwanted outing. It's his message, and it was delivered under his control and on his terms."

On Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams reiterating the league's anti-discrimination policy about sexuality. It includes a section on questions teams cannot ask prospective draft picks and free agents. After the NFL combine in February, three players said officials posed questions about sexual orientation.

Earlier this month, the NHL and its players' union partnered with an advocacy organization fighting homophobia in sports, and Commissioner Gary Bettman said the You Can Play Project underlines that "the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands."

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