Reaction to NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Reaction to NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay

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A milestone in professional sports in America as 34-year-old Jason Collins, most recently a center on the Washington Wizards, says he's gay.

It's the first time in American sports history that an active pro male athlete, has come out saying he's gay...

Jason Collins' announcement is begging the question will more athletes feel comfortable to come out?

He stands 7 feet tall and 255 pounds.

Jason Collins was most recently a center for the Washington Wizards. Collins says pro basketball is a family. And he's proud to be out and happy to start the conversation.

And he certainly did start a conversation on social media. His name is trending on Twitter. Collins is receiving support from President Obama, former President Bill Clinton and fellow athletes like Andy Roddick, who tweeted "props" to Collins.

The Boston Red Sox tweeted, "We salute u."

But not everyone is in support of Collins.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace tweeted, "all these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys. 'Shakin my head'."

Wallace later removed the tweet and apologized.

Collins says he was ultimately prompted to share his secret after the Boston Marathon terror attack...

Writing in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated "things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

The NBA released a statement, saying in part, "we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."

One openly gay athlete in Austin told FOX 7 more athletes will come out in the future, however for that to happen at the collegiate and professional levels, he says tolerance has to be taught at this level.

"It starts in youth sports. It starts in peewee football. In little league baseball. It starts with our families. Having the coaches and the administrators and the teachers creating and environment of inclusiveness and acceptance that's really where it starts," said Jeff Butler.

Butler is the Commissioner for softball Austin, a competitive gay softball league that has been around for more than a decade. Butler has been playing sports since he was a kid and played through college. But he didn't come out until well after he was out of college.

"When I was a kid it wasn't even an option. It wasn't even something I possibly considered ever doing," Butler said.

Butler says coming out when you're an athlete can seem almost impossible.

"Even today as society is kind of changing and evolving on this issue the locker room and sports is still the last frontier," he said.

Butler says gay athletes are just as talented and their performance on the field or the court is what should be judged.

"We continue to play in our own league, but we also play in the city leagues as well. And it's gone from you know at first to where people were making comments to us and was not very nice and we were not very welcome and we felt scared, but after the first game where we beat the team we played like 23-1 all of sudden the heckling stopped and it turned into respect," Butler said.

He says Collins' announcement is a step in the right direction but adds there's still a long way to go before being an openly gay professional athlete is normal to society.

"It's a huge, huge thing, but it's still not going to be this completely game changing event that's going to flip a switch and everything is going to be okay," he said.

Jason Collins has played for six teams in twelve seasons most recently, finishing the season with the Washington Wizards.

But now, he's a free agent and says he wants to continue his journey in the NBA.

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