NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Now that NBA player Jason Collins has come out as gay, activists say the next step is not just about which player will come out next, but also about which players stand up and support those who are gay.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, Hudson Taylor – founder of the group Athlete Ally – said it is critical for straight athletes to lend support if they are willing to do so.
“For every ally that speaks out, it makes it easier for a closeted athlete to come out,” Taylor said.
Athlete Ally described itself on its Web site as “a resource to encourage athletes, coaches, parents, fans and other members of the sports community to respect all individuals involved in sports.”
“The motto of Athlete ally is victory through unity,” Taylor said.
He said there is no looking back now.
“I think this will be looked back on as a major tipping point for the sports culture,” Taylor said.
Taylor himself was a college wrestling star who was also a theatre major.
Collins, 34, announced he is gay this past Monday in a first-person account posted on Sports Illustrated’s website. He has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards. He is now a free agent.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation,” he wrote. “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
Following his announcement, Collins received a personal call of support from President Barack Obama, and also received words of encouragement from former President Bill Clinton, and several fellow NBA players – including Kobe Bryant, who tweeted he was proud of Collins.
Several male athletes have previously come out after they retired, including the NBA’s John Amaechi, the NFL’s Esera Tuaolo and Major League Baseball’s Billy Bean. When Amaechi came out in 2007, fellow retired NBA player Tim Hardaway replied: “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”
But Hardaway later apologized for the statement. Now, he has been quoted in published reports as supporting Collins’ decision to come out, saying, “He is who he is, and everybody’s got to accept him for who he is.”
Athlete Ally also launched a public service announcement to thank Collins, featuring Super Bowl champion and Athlete Ally advisory board chairman Brendon Ayanbadejo.
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