Jason Collins, the first gay athlete to play openly in a major American team sport, told the audience at Monday’s Democratic National Convention that he had a major supporter in coming out: Hillary Clinton.
Collins, a former center for the New Jersey Nets, had a private meeting with the Clintons before his groundbreaking announcement, he recalled.
“I've known their family for almost 20 years,” Collins said. “I knew that they would accept me for who I was and that they would help pave a path for others to do the same. I am forever grateful for their words of wisdom back then and their unconditional support. They knew that my sexual orientation made no difference in my ability to play basketball.”
Collins is a longtime friend of Chelsea Clinton, whom he met while they were both freshmen at Stanford University.
“My dream was to play in the NBA and live my authentic life as a proud gay man at the same time,” Collins said. “I was able to accomplish both of those goals because of the people who have supported me throughout my life.”
Since leaving the league, the now retired player has become an advocate for LGBT rights, most recently praising the NBA for moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.
After North Carolina passed House Bill 2, which forces trans people to use public restrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity, the league threatened to pull the event if a significant change was not made in the law. The game was scheduled for next February at the Time Warner Cable arena.
After months of negotiations with the state, the NBA announced on July 22 that the All-Star Game would be moved.
In a press release, Collins wrote that he was “proud” of the league for taking a stand. “Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not welcome in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society,” he wrote. “The NBA has set the best kind of example and precedent moving forward for all to follow.”
The former player also threw his political endorsement behind Clinton, who called Collins an “inspiration and a leader” in a 2013 Time profile.
“They knew that my sexual orientation made no difference in my ability to play basketball, just as someone’s gender makes no difference in his or her ability to lead our nation,” he said. “As both an African American and a member of the LGBT community, the choice for continued progress is clear: This November, we must elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.”
Jarron Collins, who serves as the assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, also spoke at the DNC to both introduce his “less handsome twin brother” and condemn Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.
The coach said that as a parent, he’s concerned about the lessons a Trump presidency would impart on young children.
“How do you tell your kids not to be a bully if their president is one?” Collins asked. “How do you tell your kids to respect your heritage — my wife is Mexican-American — if their president disparages it? How do you tell your daughters they are empowered if their president reduces women to their physical appearance?”
If Collins wants his children “to know that anything is possible here,” as he claimed Monday, his brother is perhaps an example that is true.