Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

NBA’s Jason Collins Comes Out, Gives Rep. Kennedy Some of the Credit

In the May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated, NBA center Jason Collins comes out as a proud black, gay man and partially credits Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass., for this decision.

“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade,” Collins, a former Boston Celtic now with the Washington Wizards, writes in the magazine. “I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy.

“I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too.’”

The parade had a profound effect on Kennedy as well.

Kennedy said the most meaningful moment during his 2012 campaign was joining outgoing Rep. Barney Frank, his predecessor, on the 3-mile gay pride parade through the city of Boston on a 90-degree day.
“As I was walking with him, people would approach him and say, ‘Thank you, congressman. Thank you, Barney. Thank you.’ Thousands of people saying thank you to a man who carried their cause for over a decade. It had an impact on me. He is never someone who’s shied away from doing the right thing,” Kennedy told CQ Roll Call during his interview for the latest edition of Politics in America.

Collins also credits the Boston Marathon bombings showing him that circumstances will never be perfect, and life is uncertain.

“No one wants to live in fear,” he writes. “I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have.”

Nonetheless, Collins says that each time he comes out to another person he feels stronger and sleeps a bit more soundly.

“It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back,” he writes.

Kennedy, Collins’ friend, still has the NBA star’s back.

“For as long as I’ve known Jason Collins he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will ever find,” Kennedy said in a statement Monday. “Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he’s got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I’m proud to stand with him today and proud to call him a friend.”

Lauren Smith contributed to this report.

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