Jason Collins was a beloved member of the Celtics locker room this season. Doc Rivers praised him for his honesty and wisdom. Now, there’s plenty more he should be praised for. In an article written by Collins himself, the 34-year-old center became the first active professtional athlete in the United States playing a major sport to come out as gay in a exclusive Sports Illustrated article written with Franz Ludz
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
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.
Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.
The article is a tremendous read. Collins does a fantastic job being candid about himself and his choice to come out. He deserves great praise for the decision, and hopefully will start a trend now where all athletes can feel comfortable doing so in sports, if they choose to.
The interesting thing about all of this? Doc Rivers commented on the possibility of a gay athlete coming out this year, just weeks ago. What did Doc have to say?
At practice April 9th, Doc was discussing taking his team to see 42, the new Jackie Robinson movie. Rumors were circulating a group of NFL players may be coming out shortly, which led a reporter to pose the question to Doc about what would happen when a pro athlete comes out:
“There’ll be a lot of talk about it and then I think it will go away. It’s [interesting]. As a team, I took the team to see ’42′ [yesterday]. There was a lot of talk and then all of a sudden, everybody starts playing. And I think the same thing will happen. So, that’s the way I look at it.”
The point speaks volumes. And as for how Doc feels about Collins?
“He’s the best,” Rivers said. “He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach.”
Doc said that weeks ago. Today, I bet he still feels the same way, perhaps even more than ever.