NEW YORK (AP) — NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay.
The 34-year-old center, who has played for six teams in 12 seasons, wrote a first-person account posted on Sports Illustrated’s website Monday.
Collins finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to keep playing.
“If I had my way, someone else would have already done this,” he writes. “Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
Hours after Collins disclosed his sexuality, President Barack Obama reached out by phone, expressing his support and telling Collins he was impressed by his courage, said a White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the private call publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Collins played in a Final Four for Stanford and reached two NBA Finals. His twin brother Jarron was also a longtime NBA center. Jason said he came out to his brother last summer.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement: “Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”
Among those offering support on social media was former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, a friend from Stanford. She tweeted: “Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength & courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA.”
Mostly a backup in his career, Collins has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards. He was traded from Boston to Washington in February.
Collins was the 18th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft.
Several male athletes have previously come out after they retired, including the NBA’s John Amaechi, the NFL’s Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball’s Billy Bean.
Collins is the first to do so while planning to continue playing.