City Council Speaker Christine Quinn praised basketball star Jason Collins for opening up about his sexuality. Collins is the first major male athlete to come out as gay.
In his coming-out statement in an upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated, Collins says, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
Quinn, an openly gay public figure herself, said Collins' decision will "literally... save lives."
"It takes a great deal of courage to be who you are, and it is not easy to come out of the closet on any day, in any profession," Quinn noted. "And we know that professional sports have never been a particularly welcoming place to the LGBT community."
The first female professional athlete came out 32 years ago.
Tennis players Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King both came out in 1981. Navratilova was a seven-time Women's Tennis Association player of the year, and King won 12 Grand Slam titles.
Most recently, basketball player Brittney Griner, the number one WNBA draft pick this year, came out a few weeks ago. She has also signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
In an interview about two weeks ago, Griner recounted how she was bullied as a child.
"It was hard, just being picked on for being different, just being bigger, my sexuality, everything. I overcame it and got over it," she said, noting that it's "definitely something [she is] very passionate about."
"I want to work with kids and bring recognition to the problem, especially with the LGBT community," she added.
Quinn anticipates that Collins' coming out will help LGBT youth as well.
"There will be a day soon when a young boy or young girl is sitting watching the NBA finals or the Super Bowl or the World Series," Quinn said. "ANd there on the screen will be an openly gay athlete. And that little boy, maybe he thinks he's gay or maybe he knows he's fay, and maybe he sat all alone in his room with that."
"But there will be that athlete on TV, proving to the world that stereotypes don't matter, but showing others who you are and being true to yourself does."
While many expressed appreciation and support for Collins after his coming-out, Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace reportedly tweeted: "All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH..."
He followed up that tweet with: "I'm not bashing anybody don't have anything against anyone I just don't understand it."
He later deleted those tweets and apologized: "Never said anything was right or wrong I just said I don't understand!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended."
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