NewsOne Featured Video

UPDATED 4/29/13, 1:27 p.m.: The Rev. Al Sharpton released the following statement, regarding NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay:

The announcement made by NBA center Jason Collins today about being a gay male marks the first time a professional athlete has openly confirmed his sexuality. This is a breakthrough moment in sports and another step towards tolerance and fairness in the African-American community.

I salute the courage and candor of Mr. Collins and think he has made a great contribution to this country and I call on others in the civil rights community and the African-American leadership of all fields to embrace this development. We can’t be custodians of intolerance and freedom fighters at the same time. In order to fight for anyone’s civil rights and self expression we must fight for everyone’s civil rights. God Bless Jason Collins for helping to show us the way.

NBA player Jason Collins (pictured), who is currently a free agent, has come out as a gay man in the latest Sports Illustrated issue.

SEE ALSO: Ray J’s Newest Song  ‘I Hit It First’ Calls Out Kim K

In a story written with writer Franz Lidz, Collins immediately reveals that which he has kept secret for years.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

According to the basketball player, the 2011 NBA lockout forced him to confront himself:

Why am I coming out now? Well, I started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. I’m a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall.

But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.”

As with many in the LBGTQ community, Collins says he felt the pressure to follow heterosexual norms for many years. He finally realized he needed to go public with his sexuality after Massachusetts Congressman and friend Joe Kennedy told him he’d march in the 2012 Boston Gay Pride Parade.

I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, Me, too.

The Boston Marathon bombings, for example, also helped encouraged Collins to come out, because one never knows what will happen. Collins also argues that many families have gay members.

Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro-basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister, or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.

With his admission, Collins becomes the first pro-athlete of any sports organization to come out as gay.

Read the rest of his story here.

SEE ALSO: President Pledges Support In Planned Parenthood Political Fight