NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on Monday led a throng of players and celebrities offering support for Jason Collins, after the veteran center made the landmark revelation that he is gay.
Collins, who played for Boston and Washington this past season but who is now a free agent, has become the first active American professional team sports player to publicly reveal his homosexuality.
“Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support,” Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant posted on Twitter.
Canada’s Nash, a backcourt teammate of Bryant whose club was swept out of the NBA playoffs by San Antonio on Sunday, tweeted: “The time has come. Maximum respect.”
A-list celebrities also were quick to back Collins — from movie director Spike Lee, a front-row spectator at New York Knicks games, to US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who herself made headlines when she came out.
“Jason Collins just did Beautiful Thing. Be Yourself,” Lee tweeted. “Thank You For Your Courage,A Slam Dunk Against HOMOPHOBIA.And Dat’s Da ‘FREEDOM’Truth,Ruth.”
DeGeneres said on Twitter: “I’m overwhelmed by your bravery, Jason, and sending so much love.”
“We will stand with you as you continue on your journey,” posted hip hop music mogul Russell Simmons.
Collins, 34, earned kudos from fellow gay athletes, including England’s John Amaechi, who played off and on in the NBA from 1995 through 2003, and who in 2007 became the first retired NBA player to say he was gay.
“Congratulations to Jason – society couldn’t hope for a more eloquent and positive role model,” Amaechi tweeted.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam women’s singles titles and is openly gay, praised Collins for his courage.
“Well done Jason Collins- you are a brave man. And a big man at that:) 1981 was the year for me- 2013 is the year for you:),” she tweeted.
“It’s not easy to come out when one is still active- shouldn’t be an issue, but it is. That’s why so many don’t do it till after.”
Robbie Rogers, the former US national team football player who had a brief stint with Leeds this season before retiring and announcing he was gay earlier this year, tweeted: “I feel a movement coming.”
Washington Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld made a statement in support of Collins, but gave no hint as to whether or not the Wizards, who missed the playoffs, will try to keep the 7-foot free agent in the wake of his revelation.
“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Grunfeld said. “He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career.
“Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”
Collins’ teammate Bradley Beal tweeted: “Proud of @jasoncollins34 for expressing his feelings! Great teammate, mentor and better person!! #liveyourlife.”
Collins also earned support from the White House, where spokesman Jay Carney issued a statement, and former president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea attended college at Stanford University with the NBA player.
“I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned,” Clinton said in a statement.
“Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength and courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA,” tweeted Chelsea Clinton.
Players from other US professional sports leagues also voiced their support.
“Good for Jason Collins,” tweeted Kansas City Royals baseball pitcher Aaron Crow. “I’d be proud to call him a teammate if I played in the NBA.”
NFL Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who has been a vocal gay rights advocate, tweeted: “Big kudos to @JasonCollins34. Living proof that your sexuality has nothing to do with your athletic ability.”
[Image via Keith Allison, Creative Commons-licensed]