The issue has been a long festering one in pro sports. Until Collins came out, no other pro athlete had done the same will active in their respective sport.
“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,” he wrote in the current issue of Sports Illustrated.
“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,” he said.
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Collins played for the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards this season and will be a free-agent for the upcoming season. Whether he’ll land with another team, however, is problematic. Whether any other athletes will come out is also open to question.
In discussions and reports around various leagues this year, many players still seem to be uncomfortable having an openly gay teammate share a locker room and showers.
A number of retired athletes have revealed they are gay, from tennis’s Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova to the Washington Redskins’ Dave Kopay . He became the first professional team sport athlete to declare his homosexuality in 1975, three years after his retirement.
“The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I’ve taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons,” he wrote in the article.
Some players have wondered how fans might react to an openly gay player. Collins says he doesn’t mind if he’s heckled because he’s gay. Indeed, it would harken back to the days when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in sports back in the 1940s. Fans screamed racial epithets at him.
Reaction to his announcement has been positive and luminaries such as former President Bill Clinton have offered words of encouragement.