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Jason Collins, First Openly Gay Player in The NBA, Retires

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After 13 seasons in the NBA, Jason Collins, the first player to ever come out as gay while still a playing professional, has announced he is retiring from basketball. The trailblazer made his announcement in a special column on SI.com:

It has been 18 exhilarating months since I came out in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay man in one of the four major professional team sports. And it has been nine months since I signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of those leagues. It feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history.

On Wednesday at the Barclays Center, I plan to announce my retirement as an NBA player.

[...]

There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL or major league baseball. Believe me: They exist. Every pro sport has them. I know some of them personally. When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he’ll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he’s not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won’t be such a big deal. But we’re not there yet.

What exactly lies ahead for Collins is unclear though many suggest he will have a strong role as an advocate for the LGBT community in the world of professional sports. In May Collins commented, 

My goal right now is to empower others. And also support those who (are) like Derrick Gordon, Michael Sam, Robbie Rogers, and over the next months, couple of years, whoever else joins that list of out/active players.


Gay MLS Player Robbie Rogers Gets Contract Extension, Prepares To Release Autobiography

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Robbie Rogers is living proof that an openly gay man can not only play a major American professional sport — but excel at one, too.

While the NFL's Michael Sam and the NBA's Jason Colllins are searching for teams, Rogers is enjoying a resurgent season with the MLS' LA Galaxy, and now he has a multi-year contract extension to show for it, the team announced Thursday.

But it hasn't been easy. After Rogers came out in 2013, then retired, then un-retired and joined the Galaxy, he became the first openly gay man to play in one of the five major North American professional sports.

Rogers.Robbie1However, one aspect of the story that was largely overlooked in the gay media is that Rogers, a one-time member of the US National Team, didn't play particularly well initially. The layoff left him out of shape, he was plagued by injuries and, he revealed recently, he was still dealing with the enormity of being out.

"It was really tough," Rogers told The LA Times last month. "People think when you come out, it's perfect now and everyone loves you. [But] now you're dealing with all those years of being closeted. And it didn't matter how supportive people were. It was me wrapping my head around that, like, 'No, I'm just another guy on the team'."

After what The LA Times called a "disastrous" performance in last year's playoffs, Rogers spent a lot of time on the bench at the beginning of this season. But his big break came in June when Galaxy Coach Bruce Arenas moved Rogers from midfield to defense, where he became a starter. Since then, the Galaxy has posted a 10-2-7 record and they are preparing to take on the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Finals.

"We are excited that Robbie will remain a part of our organization going forward," Arenas said Thursday. "He has proven to be a dynamic player in our League and an integral part of our success this year. We look forward to his continued contributions in the years to come."

Rogers said the following on Twitter:

In addition to celebrating his contract extension, Rogers is set to release an autobiography, "Coming Out to Play," on Nov. 25. and he will soon be the subject of an ABC sitcom, "Men In Shorts."

How's that for an example of just how good things can be the other side of the closet door — at least once you get over the initial shock?


Check Out The Beautiful Story of Max Lenox, the Army Basketball Captain Raised By Two Gay Dads: VIDEO

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This week's Sports Illustrated has the moving and remarkable story of the captain of Army's basketball team and the two gay dads who raised him. Maxwell Lenox, 22, is a senior at West Point and though he's not the star player for the Black Knights, he's been voted captain two years running due to his exceptional leadership abilities and the way he inspires his teammates. “I’ll be lucky if I do half the stuff Max does, become half the leader he is,” says sophomore forward Tanner Omlid. “I want to be like him.”

Sports Illustrated, which made big news last year with Jason Collins' coming out cover, has posted this amazing story on their website, written by S.L. Price with candor, emotion, and a remarkable sense of how much the world has changed since Lenox's adoption. Lenox was born to a crack-addicted mother in Philadelphia in 1992, at the height of the urban drug epidemic. Just three days later, he was adopted by a couple from North Carolina who were eager to start a family: Dave Lenox and Nathan Merrell. Though they had reservations about the unknown challenges of raising a "crack-baby," the bigger problems turned out to be with Merrell's conservative family who was not too thrilled to find out all at once that he was gay, had a partner, and that they were grandparents to a black infant.

Lenox_merrellsIn the touching video which accompanies the story, Merrell struggles to relate how his father denied that Max was his grandchild while his mother, for the first time in her 36-year marriage, actually defied her husband. The whole story is filled with emotional moments like this as the couple faced many struggles raising Max, including Max's difficulties in school and a serious injury that derailed a potential pro career. Now, given how Max has become such a leader, the two dads are thrilled how things have turned out as there's talk their son might make general someday. A truly inspiring story.

Check out a video on Lenox and his dads, AFTER THE JUMP....

And for the full story on Max's incredible journey, head over to Sports Illustrated here

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Jason Collins Praises Tim Cook for Coming Out, Calls Him 'a True Legend' - VIDEO

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In an interview with CNBC on Friday, NBA player Jason Collins praised Apple CEO Tim Cook's decision to publicly come out as gay.

Said Collins:

"It's important for business leaders [and] all leaders in society to live their authentic life and encourage others to do the same...He's a true legend. He's a true leader. I have an Iphone, most everyone I know has an Apple product of some sort. And for the leader of that company, the CEO, come out and say that being gay is something he's very proud of...I'm very proud of him for doing that." 

Watch the full clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Documentary 'To Russia With Love' Looks at LGBT Rights In Russia In The Lead Up To Sochi Olympics: VIDEO

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To Russia With Love, a new documentary from EPIX narrated by Jane Lynch, takes a closer look at what life is like for LGBT people in Russia and at the convergence of sports, human rights and activism that took place during the Sochi Olympics earlier this year. As the film's synopsis notes, "LGBT athletes and activists [had to] choose whether to risk their own safety by speaking out against Russia's anti-gay laws." The doc follows out figure skater and commentator Johnny Weir and official US Olympic delegate Billie Jean King as they come to Sochi and meet a 17-year-old gay Russian named Vlad who details the tragic truths of the hardships faced by LGBT people in one of the world's most virulently anti-gay nations. The film also features Jason Collins, Stephen Fry, Greg Louganis, Blake Skjellerup and Mark Tewksbury.

Watch young Vlad talk about his experience of Russia's hatred for the LGBT community, along with his meeting Weir and King along with a trailer for the documentary, AFTER THE JUMP...

The documentary will debut on EPIX on October 29 at 8 PM. 

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Gay Iconography: Jason Collins Scores For Representation

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Locker rooms are a little less intimidating today, thanks in part to the courageous coming out of basketball player Jason Collins.

In April 2013, the NBA free agent made headlines when he came out in an article he’d written for Sports Illustrated. He wrote: “I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation.”

He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets and debuted the following February, making him the first openly-gay male athlete to play in any of the four major North American sports leagues. (Other athletes have come out after retirement.) Since his historic debut, Collins has been named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, marched in Pride parades and was part of the inaugural class of inductees to the National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

Even though his prospects for next season remain unclear, his impact on the larger cultural conversation remains. One of his personal heroes, tennis star Martina Navratilova said of his coming out: “Collins' action will save lives.”

Get to know Collins better with these clips, AFTER THE JUMP

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