Jason Collins sat down for his first interview since revealing yesterday in Sports Illustrated that he’s gay, and he talked with George Stephanopoulos about his process for coming out.
“I think they call it like the 12 steps,” said Collins. “You go through anger and denial, but when you finally get to that point of acceptance, there’s nothing more beautiful. And just allowing yourself to really be happy, and be comfortable in your own skin.”
Since the news broke, the reactions have been largely positive and supportive. Collins said certain supporters have made it easier, such as Martina Navratilova, whom he calls one of his heroes, and Kobe Bryant. He also got a personal phone call from President Obama.
“It’s incredible. You just try to live an honest, genuine life and the next thing you know you have the president calling you,” he said. “[Obama] was incredibly supportive, and he was proud of me and said this not only affected my life, but others going forward.”
Collins said that he waited until his season was over to come out so that the news wouldn’t be a distraction to his Wizards teammates.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” said Collins. “I never set out to be the first. Obviously you’re sort of waiting around for someone else to raise their hand. And, you know, I’m ready to raise my hand, but you still look around like, okay, come on guys.”
The Wizards center chose to wear number 98 this season, first with the Celtics and then with Washington. He explained that it was his personal tribute to Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998.
“Each time I put on jersey 98 this past season, I was already sort of having this moment with myself, with my family, with my friends who knew the significance of why I picked that number,” he explained. “Jersey 98 for Matthew Shepard. That’s why I wore jersey 98. And also to mess with the refs, because I do have a tendency to foul a lot. But the primary reason, every time I put on that jersey, I was already making that statement to myself.”
Here is the full interview: