NBA star Jason Collins, who last week came out as gay, and became the first active player in a major US team sport to come out as gay, has spoken to Oprah Winfrey about the “angst” he had about taking the steps to coming out, but has said he is glad he did it.
Speaking on the ‘Oprah: The next step’ show, Collins, who came out as gay last Monday, revealed how he felt when he made the decision to come out.
Collins last 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.”
When Oprah asked is coming out was the “biggest piece of the puzzle for [him], for now”, he said it was, because it had been a difficult decision to come out as gay, and that he wanted to maintain his private life.
He said: “For now, just because there’s so much angst, and so much of the unknown with making a decision, a declaration like this, yet trying to also at the same time, yes I’m making a big declaration, but also trying to remain as private in my private life as possible, and I think you, more than most, can attest to, yes you’re a public figure, but we have private lives.”
When asked by the host how he’d feel about “stepping out with a partner”, given that he is 7ft tall, the NBA star joked, but said that he was still relieved to have come out, because when he is in a relationship, nobody will try to out him.
“Now I know that I don’t have to worry when I do step out, that I won’t be outed, and that I’ve already raised my hand in classroom and said ‘yes’”, he said.
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.