NEW YORK Jason Collins, a NBA veteran center who played for the Celtics this season, is 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 on Sports Illustrated’s website.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins wrote. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”
The 34-year-old Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing.
Collins, who was roommates with Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy at Stanford University, says Kennedy’s participation in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade is one of the events that helped him make the decision to come out.
“I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator,” Collins wrote. “If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride.”
Kennedy released a statement Monday after the Sports Illustrated essay was published saying he was “proud to stand with [Collins] today and proud to call him a friend.”
Collins also cited the recent Boston Marathon bombings, saying it “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect.”
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.