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In a Sports Illustrated story published today, 34-year-old Wizards center Jason Collins has come out as the first openly gay athlete in a major professional sport.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” Collins writes. “I’m black. And I’m gay.”

The Boston Celtics traded Collins to the Wizards in February and is currently a free agent, which means he could be playing somewhere else next season. Collins writes that his jersey number with both teams was a symbol of solidarity with the gay community:

My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I’ve struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.

Collins told his story to former Sports Illustrated writer Dan Lidz a week after the Wizards’ season ended, according to a Sports Illustrated story about how the magazine got the scoop.

Photo by mariselise used under a Wikimedia Commons license