Jason Collins, a 12- year National Basketball Association veteran, revealed Monday that he is gay, making him the first active professional athlete to publicly do so.
Collins, who is currently a free agent, revealed that he was gay in an article written by himself and Franz Lidz that is scheduled to be in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated, but the article was published online Monday.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote. "I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different … If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
"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," he added.
NBA Commissioner David Stern and a host of current players came out to support Collins on Monday.
"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," Stern said in a statement.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, who tore his achilles tendon before the start of the playoffs, posted a message on his Twitter account supporting the NBA veteran.
"Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU."
And former player Isiah Thomas posted his support on the social media site.
"@nba @Jason Collins, the NBA family has always been about acceptance and equality for all. Stand tall you have more supporters than haters."
Collins, 34, has played for six NBA teams since entering the league in 2001 after the then-New Jersey Nets selected him 18th overall and has appeared in the playoffs on two occasions. He added that he wants to continue his professional career and is hopeful he can sign with a new team.