It’s been fun reading the qualifiers and questions about Jason Collins’ place in history this morning, after the NBA player came out of the closet.
And boy, what a closet he was in. Even his twin brother didn’t know he was gay.
“So much for twin telepathy,” wrote Collins, 34, in a long, poignant Sports Illustrated essay about the “unbearable strain” of being a closeted professional athlete. He chose the number 98 as a private homage to gay rights icon Matthew Shepard, tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998.
Collins, who played most recently for the Celtics and the Wizards, is not the first athlete to come out. (Here's a list of those who came out in 2012 alone.)
But he now owns a particular and important distinction.
As Sports Illustrated put it: “Today Collins becomes the first active male athlete in a major U.S. team sport to come out of the closet. Yes, that’s a lot of qualifiers. Yes, it may be an artificial construct. But it is a milestone. Tens of thousands of men have played in the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. Until today none had expressed his homosexuality before retirement.”