HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jason Collins, a 34-year-old professional basketball player who most recently played for the NBA's Washington Wizards, has become the first active athlete in one of the four major American sports leagues to publicly announce that he is gay.
Collins, who covers the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated, took to the magazine to make his announcement, saying "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," said Collins. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation."
In the article, Collins discusses internal struggles with his own sexuality and describes how he lived "in fear" of saying or doing something that would reveal he was gay, specifically mentioning an instance earlier in 2012 where he felt unable to cheer on a friend who was marching in Boston's Gay Pride parade.
"It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret," said Collins. "I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie."
In a statement, NBA Commissioner David Stern applauded Collins' decision.
"As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and (twin brother) Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."
Athletes from the NBA and other professional sports leagues also reached out to Collins on Twitter and other social media outlets.
Los Angeles Lakers all-star Kobe Bryant tweeted: "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"
Former NFL star and current television host Michael Strahan said: "So proud of @jasoncollins34 for having the courage to stand up and out for who he is. I support, respect and salute you!!"