WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- "I am a 34-year-old NBA Center. I'm black, and I'm gay," Jason Collins told Sports Illustrated in its May 6 issue. Collins is the first active, professional male athlete to be openly gay.
"Hopefully this will pave a path for many other athletes out there," said Ryan Burris, president of Wilmington Pride, a gay activism group.
WWAY basketball analyst Brett Blizzard, a former UNCW and professional basketball player, said it doesn't matter to him how a person identifies himself. However, he does not think Collins's choice to come out will make it easier on others given the nature of the game.
"There is a lot of physical contact, so it's going to be hard for players to come out. I don't think this is necessarily going to open the flood gates," Blizzard said.
Regardless, Blizzard says it's the way a player performs on the court and what he brings to the team that really matters.
"His off-the-court, that's his personal decision," Blizzard said. "He doesn't get paid off the court to be a certain way."
Collins told SI, "I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I am raising my hand."
"People shouldn't have to be scared to be who they are," Burris said.
Fellow NBA players have come to Collins's defense of his coming out.
"Whether there's a free country or not, you should be free to act and do as you want to do," Meta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers said.
Collins says he will march in Boston's Gay Pride Parade June 8 with his former college roommate and Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy.