WASHINGTON — Basketball center Jason Collins said in an interview broadcast Tuesday he’s never been happier after his ground-breaking announcement that he is gay, and hopes other pro athletes will now come out, too.
Collins told ABC television that coming out lifted a huge weight off his shoulders and that he had spent years hiding the truth so well that even his twin brother Jarron did not know Collins was homosexual.
“I’m really good at playing it straight,” Collins said with a hearty laugh in the interview on the “Good Morning America” program. Brother Jarron has reportedly said he has never been prouder of his brother, who is the elder of the two by eight minutes.
Collins dropped his bombshell Monday in an essay published on Sports Illustrated magazine’s website. He thus became the first active player in a major American professional team sport to reveal he is gay.
He has received broad support in America. Collins is now a free agent who has played for six NBA teams over the past 12 seasons. He finished this last season with the Washington Wizards.
“I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I’ve ever been in my life,” Collins said. “A huge weight has been lifted. I’ve already been out to my family and my friends, but just to, you know, sort of rip the Band-Aid off and come out on my own terms.”
He said he expects his colleagues in the NBA to support and respect him, and that he hopes other gay athletes will follow in his footsteps.
“You’re sort of waiting around for somebody else to raise their hand,” he said.
“I’m ready to raise my hand but, you know, you still look around like, ‘OK, come on, guys.’ It’s time for someone else in the room to raise their hand and say, ‘You know what? Yeah, so big deal. I can still play basketball. I can still help the team win, and that’s what’s most important,'” Collins added.
Collins dismissed the idea that it might be harder now for him to land a contract with a team during the off season.
“The NBA is like a brotherhood,” he said. “And I’m looking at it that we’ll all support each other on and off the court.”
Among those who expressed support for Collins on Monday was US President Barack Obama, who called him to say he was impressed by his courage, the White House said.
The revelation has drawn comparisons to the way the spotlight shone on Jackie Robinson in 1947 when he became Major League Baseball’s first black player.