During Pride month, it’s important to remember the people who pushed barriers for the LGBTQ+ community before Queer pride was so widely celebrated in today’s world. Jason Collins took a huge risk when he came out to the world as gay in 2013, becoming the first male athlete to do so while still active in an American professional sport.
Collins was quickly embraced by his fellow NBA players, friends, and family. The late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant showed his support of Collins’s announcement in a statement where he said, “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others.”-Kobe Bryant via Twitter, (@KobeBryant) 4/29/2013. This message showed how much the world had grown to accept someone with open arms, no matter what their sexuality was.
Collins’s announcement has allowed for other athletes to share their stories in a more comfortable environment. In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, and in 2021 Carl Nassib, the Defensive end for the Oakland Raiders, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
In today’s world, Jason Collins continues to fight for the LGBTQ+ community he is now a proud and accomplished voice for. Collins has kept the conversation going about the challenges that gay athletes still face in a speech at the WorldPride NYC Opening Ceremony in 2019. In his speech, he said, “I think it’s up to the rest of us to try to create that environment where those closeted athletes out there know that when they do choose to step forward, that they will be supported and championed, and continue to play the sport, continue to evolve, and not feel that they have to hide who they are,” – Jason Collins via Yahoo Sports 2/19/2020.
In May of this year, Collins again demonstrated his activism when many NHL players opted out of participating in the league’s Pride Night celebration due to religious reasons. Collins shared a heartfelt story about coming out to his religious grandmother, where she told him, “As religious as she was, it was always about love. As a disciplinarian, it was always about love.” A sentiment that Collins hopes athletes of today can embrace, as well as people around the world.
Much like Jason Collins has continued to do throughout his life after sports we must continue the conversation and help make the world a better place for the next person that may find themselves in Jason Collins’s shoes.