When NBA player Jason Collins came out, he instantly became a hero for many LGBT athletes. Over the weekend, leaders in the LGBT sports community got to know their hero better as he appeared at the Nike LGBT Sports Summit in Portland.
Coming in as a surprise guest, Collins was welcomed with a standing ovation by the 100-plus attendees, which included college athletes, sports administrators from rec sports to college, coaches and media. He then shared his coming-out story.
Collins, who first came out publicly in Sports Illustrated, has been in the NBA since 2001. He is now a free agent, but didn't want to join his new team while still in the closet. He said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"One teammate said to me, 'I'm a grown man, Jay. I don't care," Collins said. "If this is how it's going to be with everyone, it's going to be awesome."
The biggest change in Collins since coming out was that he isn't stressed by keeping his secret.
"It was about telling my story in my own words. I don't have that stress any more."
Though he is the first openly gay active athlete in the major sports, he isn't the only gay athlete still playing. Robbie Rogers in the MLS, Brittney Griner in the WNBA and Liz Carmouche in the UFC are a few of the athletes who are at the top of their game and openly gay.
"You can't stereotype what it means to be gay," Collins said.
But one thing he doesn't want to do is rush any other athletes out of the closet. He wants them to make the decision on their own.
"I hope people will step out when they're ready."