“In the end, the people who genuinely love you will always love you and support you, no matter what. It’s the secret I wish I had known for 33 years.”
Last month, Derek Jeter launched The Players Tribune, a website that would allow athletes to share their own unfiltered views and perspectives in their own words. The concept was to provide unique and unprecedented access to top athletes in every sport by giving players a safe platform where they can get their message across in the way they want to portray it.
Since then, a number of athletes have picked up the pen as Players Tribute Senior Editors. There have been some incredibly compelling pieces, including Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s heartfelt piece on bullying and domestic violence and Los Angeles Clippers Forward Blake Griffin’s revealing piece on what it was like to play for the racist, Donald Sterling. Others have been less so.
Yesterday, guest contributor Jason Collins published his essay, “I’m Out,” in which he announced his retirement and shared his deep personal insights into his difficult and often lonely journey and his decision to “come out” as the NBA’s first openly gay player. His is a wonderful and rich piece:
Today, I am retiring from the NBA after 13 seasons. Most people reading this probably don’t know me from SportsCenter. Most people know me as “the gay basketball player.” I have been an openly gay man for approximately three percent of my life. I have been a professional basketball player for almost half of it. In order to understand why I am so lucky to be sitting here today as a person who is finally comfortable in his own skin, you need to understand how basketball saved me. I needed to live the past few years as an openly gay basketball player in order to be at peace retiring today.
* * *
[B]y trying to keep everyone around me happy, I was becoming increasingly lonely. No matter your religion or what your political views are, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on. Most human beings are not meant to be alone. I know I’m not . . . . I’d had enough. I wanted to be free. A few months later, after 33 years of not telling a single soul, I came out of the closet.
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Coming out to some people was more challenging than others, but in the end, I was amazed by how much my sexuality didn’t matter. That’s the secret that every single closeted person reading this—athlete or otherwise—should know. In the end, the people who genuinely love you will always love you and support you, no matter what. It’s the secret I wish I had known for 33 years.
Collins piece is a heartfelt telling of his story – from the uncomfortable bus ride in which a teammate said “Hey Jason, How come we never see you with any women? Are you gay?” to the plane ride last season in which his teammate, NBA tough guy Kevin Garnet, openly welcomed him to the team by saying “I’m really glad you’re back playing, man. That you’re back playing in the league and you’re on our team. You know, this is going to be big for society.“
Jason Collins story is important. His message is important:
My hope is that everyone achieves that day when you step forward and reveal your truth on your own terms. Your life will be exponentially better when you celebrate all that makes you unique.
And his piece is well worth reading in its entirety.
Jason Collins essay “I’m Out,” can – and should – be read in full here at The Players Tribune.
(Photo Credit: Associated Press/Seth Weng)