Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly-gay player, told ABC News' George Stephanopoulous that he's the happiest he's ever been after coming out of the closet on Monday because "a huge weight has been lifted" from his shoulders.
"I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I've ever been in my life," Collins said. "A huge weight has been lifted. I've already been out to my family and my friends, but just to, you know, sort of rip the Band-Aid off and come out on my own terms."
The Washington Wizards center became the first ever openly-gay male professional athelete after writing an op-ed for Sports Illustrated, which appeared online on Monday and will also run in May's issue of the magazine.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote. "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."
His announcement was years in the making. Collins tells Stephanopoulous that he always knew has was gay, but avoided going public during his twelve seasons in the NBA out of fear of becoming a "distraction" to his teams' efforts on the court.
"You don't want to be that distraction," he said. "Because for me, it's always been about the team, but I think -- well, I know -- that in my personal life I'm ready and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player."
President Barack Obama has personally offered his support, as well as former President Bill Clinton, while Los Angeles Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash also tweeted thoughtful messages, proving Collins' hypothesis of acceptance to be true.
Of course, there were some naysayers, such as ESPN sportscaster Chris Broussard.
"If you're openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits," Broussard said on television on Monday. "It says that, you know, that's a sin."
Following his controversial appearance, Broussard released a full statement apologizing if his religious views offended anyone and he commended Collins for his bravery.
"I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA," he wrote.
It remains to be seen if anyone else in the NBA will follow in Collins' footsteps, and the openly-gay athlete says he doesn't know of any other gay basketball players. Still, he's hoping there are a few.
"You're sort of waiting around for somebody else to raise their hand," he said. "I'm ready to raise my hand but, you know, you still look around like, 'OK, come on, guys.' It's time for someone else in the room to raise their hand and say, 'You know what? Yeah, so big deal. I can still play basketball. I can still help the team win, and that's what's most important.'"
Here's first openly-gay NBA pro's first interview since coming out:
- Cultural Groups
- Jason Collins