By revealing that he is gay on Sports Illustrated's website Monday, NBA veteran Jason Collins said he wanted to "start the conversation." He immediately got his wish. Reaction -- the majority of it supportive -- poured in from athletes, politicians and celebrities.
Collins, 34, started his 12-year career with the Nets and has played for five other NBA teams, most recently the Wizards. A number of his former teammates applauded him Monday.
"Jason Collins was one of the best teammates I've ever had," Nets guard Joe Johnson, who played with Collins on the Atlanta Hawks, said before Monday night's playoff game against the Chicago Bulls. "I respect his tremendous courage to come out and will always support him."
Added Brook Lopez: "It is an honor for me to call Jason Collins a friend. I admire his dignity as well as his courage to come out."
The Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, who played with Collins on the Hawks, said he was surprised by the story. "My biggest reaction is the surprise of it all after reading all of it," he said. "It doesn't really change what kind of person he is. He's a good guy. It's just who he is."
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who once was fined $100,000 for directing an antigay slur at a referee but has since voiced his support for the gay community, was one of the first to tweet about Collins: "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others. #courage #support"
Collins, who played for Boston before being traded to the Wizards this season, also drew a message of support from Celtics coach Doc Rivers and was invited by the Red Sox to throw out the first pitch at a game this year.
Not everyone was supportive.
Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace tweeted: "All these beautiful women in the world and guys want to mess with other guys." Followed by: "I'm not bashing anybody don't have anything against anyone. I just don't understand it." Both tweets later were deleted.
ESPN reporter Chris Broussard called homosexuality "a sin" during Monday's episode of "Outside the Lines."
CC Sabathia lauded Collins' move but added that it would be very tough for a player to come out in baseball. "Good for him. He can be honest and not have to live a lie, I guess," he said. "It's tough for someone to come out, to be the first guy."
David Wright said he believes baseball is ready to welcome a gay player. "Hopefully this allows individuals to express themselves," he said. "I know that I'm not passing any judgment except for coming out here, playing on a team and winning baseball. If you can do that, then a teammate is a teammate.''
With Erik Boland,
Marc Carig and Greg Logan