Jason Collins, the NBA star who came out as gay earlier this month to a huge amount of media attention, and became the first openly gay player in a US major team sport, has received a courage award from leading gay-straight alliance organisation GLSEN.
Collins was honoured with the award yesterday evening, at the organisation’s Respect Awards in New York’s Gotham Hall.
Collins earlier in May 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.”
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) executive director, Eliza Byard, said: ”Jason’s actions also send another clear message to young people that sexual orientation can no longer be the standard to unfairly judge an athlete’s ability or potential.”
“Joining the ranks of trailblazers like Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, Wade Davis and Brittney Griner, we have witnessed another obstacle overcome in sports.”
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 would follow his lead, and he later revealed that he wore the number 98 jersey in a silent gesture of solidarity with the gay community.
Last week, Jason appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show with twin brother Jarron, who joked that he had missed “red flags” that his brother was gay, and was given a t-shirt which said “I’m the straight one”.
Since appearing on the show, a fan posted a picture of himself and Jarron on Reddit, in which he is wearing the t-shirt. He told Kimmel that he had been approached by men asking if he was Jason.