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Gay activists laud NBA player Jason Collins for coming out while still an active player

Reaction to NBA center Jason Collins coming out of the closet:

HRC, the Human Rights Campaign:

Washington – The NBA’s Jason Collins made history today by coming out as gay – the first time an NBA player has done so while still actively playing. Collins, a center, finished this season with the Washington Wizards, and has also played for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Memphis Grizzlies. Collins made the announcement in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“With his brave and honest announcement today, Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports. No longer will prejudice and fear force gay athletes to remain silent about a fundamental part of their lives. By coming out and living openly while still an active NBA player, Collins has courageously shown the world that one's sexual orientation is no longer an impediment to achieving one's goals, even at the highest levels of professional sports.

“Jason Collins’ commitment to living openly is a monumental step forward toward greater equality and he immediately becomes a role model for youth all across this country. His actions today tell LGBT young people that what will define our success in life is our character and dedication, not our sexual orientation. At a moment when millions are reflecting on the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, Jason Collins is a hero for our own times.

“Today's announcement again shows that gay Americans are our teachers, police officers, nurses, lawyers and even our professional athletes. We contribute to every aspect of our American community and deserve the same equal rights as every American.”

GLAAD:

"'Courage' and 'inspiration' are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context," said Aaron McQuade, head of GLAAD's sports program. "We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT Athletes now have a new hero."

Equality Florida:

We are thrilled that Jason Collins has courageously stepped forward today as the first openly gay professional athlete, and we hope that he has opened the door for all athletes to live open and honest lives on and off the field.

We want to commend allies in professional sports who have spoken up to pave the way for this historic breakthrough. Less than one week ago, former NFL linebacker and Super Bowl champ Brendon Ayanbadejo joined Equality Florida at a press conference to say he was joining the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality here in Florida and to call on other professional athletes to join him in speaking out for equality.

Brendon has become a national voice for gay rights, and in doing so has expressed his desire to make it safe for professional athletes to come out.

The immediate outpouring of support from teammates, fellow players, coaches and elected officials is a testament to how fast our country is moving in favor of supporting and protecting the gay community.

While we were disappointed by the insensitive comment from new Miami Dolphin, Mike Wallace, it speaks volumes about how far we have come that the Dolphins organization addressed the comment immediately, and that Mike Wallace has already offered up some form of apology.

We hope that Jason’s announcement today leads the NBA to set a high standard for supporting athletes who come out and that other major sports organizations will follow or exceed their example.

As a professional athlete and role model, Jason’s announcement is particularly important to LGBT youth and sends a message that they can grow up to be anything in this world, including a sports star.  And when we speak out to support Jason, we send a message to those same youth that the world is ready to support them!

Equality Florida is proud to continue working with Brendon to secure those rights here in Florida and we invite other athletes, celebrities and leaders who call Florida their home, to join us.

We know there are many more athletes who have been taught that the only way to succeed in professional sports is to hide in the closet. That is why the voices of Jason and straight allies like Brendon and a growing list of pro-equality athletes are so important. We look forward to the day when an athlete coming out as gay is not newsworthy, but today this message is a powerful one.

We will continue to amplify Brendon’s message – That it is important for straight allies in sports to speak out on behalf of gay teammates to make the world safer for them to come out and live openly and honestly.

Today is a testament to how important and effective that work has been.

Homophobia relies on people of good conscience remaining silent, and when straight allies speak out it makes the world safer for LGBT athletes and people everywhere.”

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