A current NBA player has announced that he is gay, making him the first active, openly homosexual athlete in the four major American pro team sports. Monday, Quad City activists cheered the news and said they hope it inspires local young athletes.
In this week's issue of Sport's Illustrated, Jason Collins says, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
During his career, Collins has played for six pro teams and made two NBA finals. His announcement is now shattering stereotypes nationally and locally.
“There have been many other gay athletes throughout the years, but they’ve all been in retirement. Here is an active, very successful player who has really broken open the doors for many other people," said Mike Hetrick, a member of Quad Citians Affirming Diversity.
United Township High School teacher Carol Mackel said it's an issue she's seen Quad City kids struggle with.
“There’s still so much hate out there. There’s still so many kids, people, who are just … mean," said Mackel.
Mackel, who serves as the faculty advisor for UTHS' Gay Straight Alliance group, hopes Collins will be the role model students need.
“I don’t doubt that we probably have athletes at our school who are gay. And for them to see another athlete, a pro athlete, that can make it and can be accepted by their peers, and still be an athlete in their sport… that’s gonna give some of our kids some courage," said Mackel.
Other players, like Kobe Bryant, have already taken to Twitter with their support of Collins, saying, "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others."
Not all the response, though, has been positive.
“There’s gonna be some issues. I mean, this is just the very first step, so there’s gonna be some step backwards as well here. But he’s broken open the doors, which is a really good thing," said Hetrick.
Local activists also said they're glad Collins started this conversation.
“If this can give one kid a shred of hope -- that they’re gonna be okay, and that they are okay as they are -- we’ve saved a life," said Mackel.
Collins, who played most recently with the Washington Wizards, is currently a free agent, but said he plans to continue playing basketball.