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Basketball star is first openly gay professional US athlete

A BASKETBALL player has become America's first openly gay male athlete playing in a major team sport, finally breaking the long-held locker-room taboo against gay teammates.

Jason Collins (left) a 7ft tall centre for the Washington Wizards, disclosed his sexuality in a deeply personal article for 'Sports Illustrated' magazine.

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA centre. I'm black. And I'm gay. 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 said.

"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'm raising my hand."

His decision after American football found itself accused of institutionalised bigotry on the eve of the Superbowl when Chris Culliver, a cornerback with the San Francisco 49ers, said a gay teammate would not be welcome in the locker room.

Former president Bill Clinton, who has revealed how his own attitudes towards gay rights were shaped by meeting his daughter Chelsea's college friends, released a statement in support of Collins. "I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent