The words “LGBT” and “SPORTS” have never gotten along. Gay athletes on professional teams remained more closeted than coat hangers in the history of modern sporting events, until Jason Collins came out in 2013. One of the boldest plays in any sporting event wasn’t actually on the field, courts, or ring. Jason Collins, a professional basketball player for the New Jersey Nets and Brooklyn Nets, made international headlines when he publicly announced he was gay in 2013 (via Sports Illustrated) while he was still an athlete for one of the four major North American sport teams. The historic moment made him a household name, and he has since helped other athletes (from professional to high school) comfortably come out of the closet. Now retired, Jason has been a major influence in the sporting and LGBT communities, has graced the cover of Time magazine, and speaks at events around the world. His coming out was whole-heartedly embraced, and that’s nothing but net. Jason Collins joined us in the VIP Lounge to talk basketball, travel, and the White House.
What was it like being one of the first professional athletes to come out to the world in 2013?
I reached a point in my life when I was ready to come out. I told members of my family starting in 2011. Most of my friends and family knew the following year in 2012. I figured I already had the love and support of the people who mattered the most to me so why not tell the public. The process of coming out was coordinated by my agent at the time, Arn Tellem. He was the quarterback who helped come up with a plan for me tell my story with dignity and respect while giving me a chance to continue playing in the NBA. I owe a lot to him, and I am very grateful for his continued friendship and support. After the Sports Illustrated article came out, my life became very surreal at times. Getting phone calls from President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, etc.