Over the past few years, the four major professional American sports leagues have actively worked on trying to become more gay friendly. Inclusive projects have been launched, seminars have been given and claims of homophobia have been investigated. Without a single current, openly gay player in any of the leagues, however, that push toward tolerance lacked a human face. Let the record show it does no longer.

Former Stanford All-American and longtime NBA journeyman Jason Collins officially came out today in a long-winded and touching letter to Sports Illustrated. In it, the twelve-year veteran chronicles his longtime identity struggle, his decision to come out to his family first and his ultimate decision to go public with his sexual orientation.

Here’s a quote from his letter…
”No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.”

Collins has always been a team-first guy. He’s not blessed with the best post moves or the purest jump shot, but he’s made a living off of working hard, playing aggressive defense and thinking his way through possessions, whether with the Nets, the Celtics, the Timberwolves or anyone else he’s played for. He openly admits in the letter he’s frequently asked to use all six of his fouls during games, and he doesn’t have a problem with that. Winning and having his teammates’ backs is all that ever mattered, and in this exciting, nerve-wracking, scary, euphoric, historic, powerful, incredible and pretty damn cool moment, I truly hope his former teammates publically support him too.

Pop Blend’s sincerest congratulations go out to Collins today. What he did took courage, and he should walk a little taller today.

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