By KEN POWTAK
Jason Collins, the first active athlete to come out as being gay in one of the four U.S. major professional sports leagues, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park on Thursday night before the Red Sox played the Texas Rangers.
Collins came out in a first-person article in Sports Illustrated in late April. He’s played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He was dealt in a midseason trade from the Boston Celtics to the Washington Wizards and becomes a free agent July 1. He’s said he’d like to continue his career.
The 7-foot center was greeted with a nice applause when the PA announcer read the opening of the SI article: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
Wearing a Red Sox jersey with the No. 98 on the back, Collins threw out the first pitch to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz feels everyone should support each other based on how they act.
“Nobody knows what is perfect and what is not,” Ortiz said, sitting at his locker about three hours before the game. “If you are respectful and you do what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter what you are and what you come from, people should respect you and love you the same way.”
After making his announcement in April, Collins garnered immediate support from the White House–President Barack Obama called him–along with former President Bill Clinton.
“This is an opportunity for us as an organization. We respect his courage, we respect his choices,” Farrell said during his daily meeting with the media. “It’s an opportunity to showcase that. At the time when this was a possibility of coming out, we had said we’re an organization that embraces all, and I think this is a very small way of showing that.”
Before walking to the mound, Collins posed for pictures on the field with fans, who were also being honored for various other achievements, and a few Red Sox employees.
When the PA announcer said, “We welcome this courageous leader,” he was also given a nice hand.
Collins had said at the time of his decision to come out that he “endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie.”
He said in April that he quietly made a statement for gay rights even while keeping his sexual orientation a secret, wearing No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards–a symbolic nod to 1998, when Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.