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Monday
Apr292013

NBA Player Becomes First Openly Gay Athlete in Major American Sport

Time Inc.(WASHINGTON) -- NBA center Jason Collins on Monday became the first active player in a major American team sport to be openly gay.  

Collins re-introduced himself in Sports Illustrated: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” he wrote. “I’m black and I’m gay.”

On the magazine’s cover, Collins, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards, is quoted as saying, “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport.  But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly,” said Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld. “He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”

In a statement, NBA commissioner David Stern said he is “proud” that Collins “has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

The 7-foot, 12-year NBA veteran said the "strain of hiding" his sexuality was "unbearable” and the Boston Marathon bombings taught him not to wait for perfect circumstances.

"Things can change in an instant," he said, "so why not live truthfully."

Former President Bill Clinton called this "an important moment for professional sports."

“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,” Clinton said in a statement. “For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”

This issue of Sports Illustrated hits newsstands this week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio