The first openly gay player in a major US team sport, Jason Collins, who came out on Monday, has been subject to a tirade of abuse on the social networking site Twitter, including a number of death threats.

Collins on Monday spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

One Twitter user said: “Jason collins comes out the closet! Kill that biiitttchhhh!!! @nba lol”. Another said: “Listening to Jason Collins describe his gayness as “beautiful” makes me wanna puke. And kill him.”

A third user wrote: “First jason collins say he gay… Now he on ESPN w lipgloss on kill him now !!!”, and another: “Yous a dead faggot talkn on TV Boy.”

Those defending Collins against the abuse, however, also took to using phrases such as “kill yourself”, addressing those who dealt out abuse to the Wizards player.

One said: “If you’re making fun of Jason Collins for being gay, kill yourself. I’m serious. KILL. YOURSELF. This world doesn’t need you reproducing.”

Despite some abusive messages, Collins received thousands of messages of support, including from President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, his teammates, coaches, the Commissioner of the NBA, and countless others.

In his first interview since coming out as gay, Collins said he hoped other professional athletes will follow his lead, and he later revealed that he wore the number 98 jersey in a silent gesture of solidarity with the gay community.

Some have taken to condemning the star for coming out, such as US conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who attacked President Obama for supporting him.