ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — NBA center Jason Collins is the first athlete in a major American team sport to announce he’s gay.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” the 34-year-old Collins wrote in the Sports Illustrated cover story.

Collins, who has played for six NBA teams over 12 seasons, decided to come out of the closet after the deadly Boston Marathon bombings “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect.”

“No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing,” Collins wrote. “I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret.”

Collins reveals that he didn’t announce he was gay sooner because of loyalty to the teams he played for, saying that his “double life” has kept him from getting close to his teammates.

“Early in my career I worked hard at acting straight, but as I got more comfortable in my straight mask it required less effort,” Collins said. “In recent days, though, little has separated ‘mask on, mask off.’ Personally, I don’t like to dwell in someone else’s private life, and I hope players and coaches show me the same respect. When I’m with my team I’m all about working hard and winning games. A good teammate supports you no matter what.”

Collins says he has no idea how other players will respond to his announcement.

“I hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” Collins said. “The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I’ve taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn’t an issue before, and it won’t be one now.”

Chelsea Clinton voiced her support for Collins on Twitter.

“Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength & courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA,” Clinton tweeted.

The former 2001 first-round pick is a free agent. He played for the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards last season. He has also played for the New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Atlanta Hawks.


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