Nightly News   |  April 29, 2013

Collins becomes first openly gay active pro player

NBA center Jason Collins said he wants to “do the right thing and not hide anymore,” and announced that he’s gay.  Although many other athletes have come out, Collins is the first to do so while playing on a major American sports team. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> was a big announcement this morning, first of its kind. a male athlete, a player in an american sports league has come out as gay. his name is jason collins . he's a veteran in the nba. his declaration was met with widespread praise from the sports world and beyond including a phone call from the president of the united states pledging his support. our report tonight from nbc's mike taibbi .

>> reporter: he was drafted as an inside scoring force. while jason collins is not a star or a starter anymore, the 12-year pro is now something no active player in a major american team sport has ever been -- openly gay .

>> there have been tens of thousands of people before him. he is the first one to come out while playing and say, i'm gay.

>> reporter: collins wrote in the current sports illustrated , i want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. i want to take a stand and say, me, too. the reaction, hugely positive. from kobe bryant , proud of jason. commissioner david stern celebrated his leadership mantel on this important issue. and chelsea clinton cheered him for having the strength and courage to become the first. first lady michelle obama added, we've got your back. for sports fans everywhere it was the topic of conversation.

>> for a pro athlete it's a big step.

>> used to be a big thing but now it's not.

>> reporter: collins is universally well liked and that helps. as he was pointing toward this day, the country was changing. gay rights as an issue now enjoys majority support. says one gay expert who helps celebrities come out publically.

>> people say, look, the sky isn't falling in the same way states are toppling in our gay marriage battle.

>> reporter: there have been openly gay athletes competing in individual sports like martina navratilova , but in american's team sports , athletes like billy beans came out only after they retired. jason collins has changed that.

>> male athletes have been in the closet, are feeling like it's a possibility to come forward. what jason did today is incredible.

>> reporter: now even our most macho team sports offer another lesson.

>> it's good that he's coming out and he's transparent about it. it break it s the ice sprks one brave seven-footer, his career not yet over. the rest of his life just beginning. mike taibbi , nbc news, los angeles .