Jason Collins played with the Celtics and Wizards this season, his 12th in the NBA.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- NBA Center Jason Collins has become the first active professional in basketball, football, baseball and hockey to come out as gay.
At 34 Collins is a 12-year veteran, now a free agent, able to sign with any NBA team after finishing the past season with the Washington Wizards.
D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, one of two openly gay city council members compared Collins decision to come out with Magic Johnson's public announcement years ago that he had contracted the HIV virus.
Longtime D.C. gay activist Phil Pannel applauded Collins decision and said it would help other African American gays in communities were black churches are among the leading critics of gay lifestyles.
Jason Collins came out in a first person article for Sports Illustrated. He says he did so while waiting for someone else to go first.
He writes that not even his twin brother knew until last summer that he was gay. The two played basketball together at Stanford University.
As a free agent there is no certainty that Collins will be picked up by another team. He sat at the end of the Wizards bench this past season, appearing in only six games.
And while its a big step that Jason Collins comes out while still in the professional sports arena, it becomes a really big deal if he's on an NBA team, on the road, in the locker room, come next season.