D.C. Leaders Show Support for Jason Collins

Washington Wizards center sees local love after coming out in Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins, a National Basketball Association (NBA) free agent who was traded by the Boston Celtics to the Washington Wizards in February, came out as gay in an interview with Sports Illustrated released today, becoming the first active major-league male athlete to do so, telling the magazine, ”I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

In the Sports Illustrated interview, which will appear in the magazine’s May 6 issue, Collins said he started thinking about coming out during the 2011 NBA player lockout, which disrupted his regular training routine and forced him to confront his sexual orientation.

Following the news, the Washington Wizards issued the following statement to the media via email:

”We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfield said in the statement. ”He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him as both a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientations.”

On a local level, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) sent a message of support to Collins, tweeting, ”@jasoncollins34 Kudos 2 you 4 taking a stand that will help untold numbers of kids and athletes. As a longtime LGBT ally, I salute you!”

Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) also commented on Collins’s coming out in a series of tweets, writing: ”While on break, I had the chance to read the SI article on Jason Collins. I commend Jason for his courage to stand up and speak out!”

Barry, a longtime member of the D.C. Council and former D.C. mayor who has been mostly supportive of LGBT rights since the start of his political career but opposed marriage equality in the District, also wrote: ”It took a tremendous amount of courage to do what Jason did, and as a result of his efforts, others will find comfort being who they are.”

Via Twitter, Barry extended this invitation: ”I wish NBA player Jason Collins all the best and would like to invite him to meet with me to collaborate on community efforts in Ward 8.”

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) re-tweeted a post by the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supportive of Collins’s coming out.

In the Sports Illustrated interview, Collins said that he delayed his coming out due to ”loyalty to my team” and not wanting his personal life to become a distraction. He also reiterated throughout the piece that he is a private person who has been very discreet about his personal life.

”I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003,” he told the magazine. ”The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted. And yet we still have so much farther to go. Everyone is terrified of the unknown, but most of us don’t want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against. I’m impressed with the straight pro athletes who have spoken up so far – Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo. The more people who speak out, the better, gay or straight.”

Ayanbadejo, a free agent and former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, who has been very supportive of LGBT rights and the need for professional athletes who are gay to come out of the closet, posted a message of support via his Twitter account.

”By @jasoncollins34 opening doors and doing it his way on his time he has helped shape a more accepting America. May many more follow #courage,” he tweeted.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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