The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

April 30, 2013

'I'm gay': NBA player Jason Collins breaks barrier

(Continued)

"I feel a movement coming," he tweeted after word of Collins' news broke.

Female athletes have found more acceptance in coming out; Brittney Griner, a two-time AP women's college basketball player of the year now headed to the WNBA, caused few ripples when she said this month she is a lesbian. Tennis great Martina Navratilova, who came out decades ago, tweeted Monday that Collins is "a brave man."

"1981 was the year for me — 2013 is the year for you," her post said.

Collins told ABC that Navratilova was his role model.

"I look at her as one of my heroes. ... Hopefully going forward I can be someone else's role model," Collins said.

Sports leagues in Britain and elsewhere in Europe have been trying to combat anti-gay bias. But the taboo remains particularly strong in soccer, where there are no openly gay players in Europe's top leagues and homophobic chants are still heard at some games.

Soccer "is not going to change," said Amaechi, who is English and now lives in Manchester. "If it wanted to change, it would change. It has the resources to do so. It doesn't want to change."

Justin Fashanu is the only significant British soccer player to have come out publicly, doing so in 1990. The former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker was found hanged in a London garage in 1998 at age 37. According to an inquest, Fashanu left a note saying that, because he was gay, he feared he wouldn't get a fair trial in the United States on sexual assault charges. Maryland police were seeking him on charges that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy.

Among other athletes outside the U.S. to come out was Gareth Thomas, a Welsh rugby star who attracted widespread media attention in 2009 when he announced he was gay. He continued playing until retirement in 2011.

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