"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…then coming out won't be such a big deal. But we're not there yet."
Collins announced his retirement Nov. 19 in Sports Illustrated. Collins will formally retire at the Barclays Center when the Milwaukee Bucks take on the Brooklyn Nets. Collins thanked Bucks coach Jason Kidd, his former teammate and coach, for his support.
Jason Collins announces his retirement from the NBA in SI
The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract in February, making him the first openly gay professional athlete in North America's four major sports. Collins, 35, played in his first game for the Nets later that day versus the Lakers in Los Angeles.
The Brooklyn Nets re-signed Jason Collins for the rest of the season March 15, after two consecutive 10-day contracts. The Nets said it had been their expectation all along that Collins would be with them until the end of the season.
Nets Sign Jason Collins to a Second 10-Day Contract | The Official Site of the Brooklyn Nets
The NBA said on Feb. 28 that it will donate no less than $100,000 from sales of Collins' jersey to the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. The day before, on Feb. 27, Collins met with Shepard's parents in Denver.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation… If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
Jason Collins, NBA player
Collins said he started thinking about coming out in 2011. When he told an aunt about his sexuality, she supported him and said she'd known for years.
The first openly gay male athlete in a US sport was Robbie Rogers, signed by the LA Galaxy in May of 2013. Several WNBA players, including Sheryl Swoopes, who came out in 2005 when she played for the Houston Comets, preceded Collins.
"[Collins coming out] was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn't matter, that the NBA was OK with it."
Derrick Gordon, University of Massachusetts sophomore basketball player
On April 9, Gordon announced that he was gay, becoming the first openly gay NCAA Division I men's basketball player to do so. He credited Collins as an influence in his decision. "I'm so proud of [Gordon]," Collins said on Twitter.