Professional US basketballer Jason Collins is the first player from any of the country’s top four pro men’s leagues to come out as gay publicly.
The veteran National Basketball League (NBA) player revealed his sexuality on Monday in a first hand account published in Sports Illustrated magazine.
The 34 year-old said he had grown frustrated about staying silent on gay issues and was persuaded to go public after the Boston Marathon bombings this month.
“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different,” he wrote.
“If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
Praise and support has poured in since his announcement.
US President Barack Obama called Collins on Monday to express his support, and First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted: “So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back!”
In a statement, former US president Bill Clinton said the announcement was an important moment for professional sports and for the history of the LGBT community.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said he was proud of Collins for taking leadership on the isssue.
American LGBTI advocacy group GLAAD said Collins gave new meaning to ‘courage’ and ‘inspiration’ and called on the basketball community to applaud him.
Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA’s most prominent players, also welcomed the news on social media.
Collins is the first player to reveal his homosexuality from any of the top four pro men’s leagues – the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, National Football League, and Major League Baseball.
He has played for six different teams in his 12 years in the NBA.
It follows months of media speculation about gay players in the National Football League (NFL).
The reaction has not been entirely positive though. ESPN sports analyst Chris Broussard came under fire shortly after the announcement when he said homosexuality was a sin.
However, American journalist L.Z. Granderson quickly shut down Broussard’s comments on air.
WATCH: Broussard’s comments and Granderson’s response.