Jason Collins, best known as the journeyman NBA player who came out as gay in 2013, announced his retirement today. The 35-year-old veteran last played in the 2013-2014 NBA season for the Brooklyn Nets.
“It has been 18 exhilarating months since I came out in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay man in one of the four major professional team sports,” Collins said on the magazine’s website. “And it has been nine months since I signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of those leagues. It feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history.”
Jason plans to officially announce his retirement today at the Barclays Center, the Nets’ home court. In his statement, he included a call to action on behalf of the closeted gay men still playing professionally. “There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL, or Major League Baseball. Believe me: They exist. Every pro sports team has them. I know some of them personally. When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he’ll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he’s not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won’t be such a big deal. But we’re not there yet.”
Collins spent 13 seasons in the NBA and played for five NBA teams (he started and ended his career with the Nets, but the latter stint was after the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn). Since coming out, he has been a strong activist for LGBT rights. He was recently honored by Athlete Ally, and last week he attended the Paley Center for Media’s gala celebrating television’s impact on LGBT equality. Earlier this year, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year.
“My goal right now is to empower others,” Collins said. “And also to support those like Derrick Gordon, Michael Sam, Robbie Rogers, and over the next month, couple of years, whoever else joins that list of out, active players.”
Watch Collins’s interview with SI Now below.