WASHINGTON - The NBA's Jason Collins made history yesterday by coming out as gay - the first time an NBA player has done so while still actively playing. Collins, a center, finished this season with the Washington Wizards, and has also played for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Memphis Grizzlies. Collins made the announcement in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin released the following statement:
"With his brave and honest announcement today, Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports. No longer will prejudice and fear force gay athletes to remain silent about a fundamental part of their lives. By coming out and living openly while still an active NBA player, Collins has courageously shown the world that one's sexual orientation is no longer an impediment to achieving one's goals, even at the highest levels of professional sports.
"Jason Collins' commitment to living openly is a monumental step forward toward greater equality and he immediately becomes a role model for youth all across this country. His actions today tell LGBT young people that what will define our success in life is our character and dedication, not our sexual orientation. At a moment when millions are reflecting on the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, Jason Collins is a hero for our own times.
"Today's announcement again shows that gay Americans are our teachers, police officers, nurses, lawyers and even our professional athletes. We contribute to every aspect of our American community and deserve the same equal rights as every American."
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Photo: Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, right, passes the ball to center Jason Collins (98) as he is pressured by Charlotte Bobcats center Brendan Haywood during a game in Boston, Jan. 14, 2013. Charles Krupa/AP