November 19, 2014 at 10:43 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Jason Collins announces retirement

Jason Collins, NBA, gay news, Washington Blade

Jason Collins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jason Collins announced his retirement from the National Basketball Association in an op-ed that Sports Illustrated published on Wednesday.

Collins, who is the first openly gay person who actively played for a professional sports team, in his op-ed noted he came out in the magazine in April 2013. Collins also acknowledged the Brooklyn Nets earlier this year signed him.

“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,” wrote Collins.

Collins, a California native who once played for the Washington Wizards, has emerged as a prominent LGBT rights advocate since he came out.

He took part in a U.N. panel on homophobia and transphobia last December that commemorated the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Collins has also spoken to the Point Foundation and other advocacy groups.

Collins while playing for the Nets wore jersey number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student murdered outside of Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation last month honored Collins at its annual gala.

“Jason has every reason to be proud of his career, starting with outstanding high school and college play, a prominent position in the draft, and 13 years playing a grueling sport at the professional level,” Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in a statement. “The fact that he came out and was authentic about who he is was a capstone. It sent a really positive signal to more young athletes than any of us will probably ever know. Dennis and I have been touched by the way he honored Matt and we expect he will continue to inspire athletes to be themselves for a long time to come. We wish him all the best for what we’re sure will be a bright future.”

Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com, an LGBT sports website, also applauded Collins.

“Jason’s impact on the sports world will be felt for years to come,” Zeigler told the Blade. “While he may be ending his playing career today, I know he will continue to start conversations and engage people in the sports world on ending the environment that has kept so many men and women afraid to be themselves.”

Collins plans to formally announce his retirement later on Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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