Jason Collins—the NBA veteran who announced publicly in Sports Illustrated in 2013 that he is gay—will retire from basketball, he writes today in the same publication. He played in 22 games last season for the Brooklyn Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of the United States’ major sports leagues during a contest against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23 of this year.
It had been argued that no team would want to take on a player who was likely to attract a media circus from the outset and whose sexuality would be a distraction. I’m happy to have helped put those canards to rest. The much-ballyhooed media blitz to cover me unscrambled so quickly that a flack jokingly nicknamed me Mr. Irrelevant.
Among the memories I will cherish most are the warm applause I received in Los Angeles when I took the court in my Nets debut, and the standing ovation I got at my first home game in Brooklyn. It shows how far we’ve come. The most poignant moment came at my third game, in Denver, where I met the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student beaten to death in a 1998 hate crime on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo. For the past two years I have worn number 98 on my jersey to honor his memory.
Collins will make a public statement today at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. “There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL or major league baseball,” he says in his piece. “Believe me: They exist.”