Orlando Cruz of Puerto Rico came out in October as the first openly gay professional male boxer. Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury came out six years after winning a gold medal in the backstroke at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Four-time Olympic diving gold medalist Greg Louganis of the U.S. revealed he was gay in 1994, a year before announcing he was also HIV-positive. Former Olympic skiing gold medalist Anja Paerson of Sweden announced last year, after retiring, that she was in a long-term relationship with a woman.
White House spokesman Jay Carney called Collins' decision courageous and said the administration views it as another example of progress and evolution in the U.S. as Americans grow more accepting of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
Former President Clinton said: "Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive."
Collins attended Stanford with Clinton's daughter Chelsea and played in a Final Four while at the school. His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center who last played in the league in the 2010-11 season. Collins says he told his brother he was gay last summer.
"He was downright astounded. He never suspected. So much for twin telepathy," Collins writes in SI. "But by dinner that night, he was full of brotherly love. For the first time in our lives, he wanted to step in and protect me."
Advocacy organization GLAAD released a statement from Aaron McQuade, the head of its sports program.
"Courage' and 'inspiration' are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context," he said. "We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT athletes now have a new hero."
At Stanford, Collins was a college roommate of Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. In his account, Collins writes that he realized he needed to go public when the congressman walked in Boston's gay pride parade last year — and Collins decided he couldn't join him.
"For as long as I've known Jason Collins he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will ever find. Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he's got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I'm proud to stand with him today and proud to call him a friend," Kennedy said in a statement.
In Monday's story, Collins writes that the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 "reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"
And now, Collins says, he will be in Boston on June 8, marching alongside Kennedy at the city's 2013 gay rights parade.
"Some people insist they've never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who's gay," Collins concludes. "In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who's out."
AP Sports Writers Joseph White, Nancy Armour, Larry Lage, Brian Mahoney, Antonio Gonzalez, Rachel Cohen, Paul Newberry, Jimmy Golen, Howard Ulman, Rob Harris and Steve Wilson, and Associated Press Writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Cara Rubinsky and Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
Howard Fendrich is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
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