NBA center Collins credits lawmaker's Gay Pride march in coming out

NBA center Jason Collins credited Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) with motivating him to publicly announce that he is gay.

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"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins writes in a piece in Sports Illustrated.

The announcement makes Collins, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards, the first athlete in the major men's sports leagues to come out as gay. He cited Kennedy's participation in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade as having motivated his decision.

"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade," Collins wrote.

"I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride.

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"I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.' "

Collins also cited the Boston Marathon bombing as having contributed to his decision.

"The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect," Collins writes. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8."

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Kennedy said he was proud to call Collins a friend.

"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," Kennedy said. "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."

Former President Clinton was among a number of political figures to express support for Collins.

"I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community," the former president said.

"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," Clinton said.

Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) praised expressed support for Collins.

— This story was updated at 12:17 p.m. and has been corrected from an earlier version.