This Day In History: February 23

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On February 23, 2014, Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins becomes the first openly gay athlete to play in a game in the United States’ four major professional leagues. The 35-year-old journeyman plays 10 scoreless minutes, recording two rebounds and five fouls in the Nets’ 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

In May 2013, Collins revealed he is gay in a first-person essay in Sports Illustrated. “I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm Black. And I'm gay," he wrote. "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation.”

Before his revelation, the seven-foot, 255-pound big man was primarily known as a solid defender and rebounder and the identical twin brother of NBA veteran Jarron Collins. 

Collins, unsigned through the first half of the 2013-14 season, got an opportunity with the Nets after Brooklyn made a trade to open a roster spot. He had played with the Nets for the first seven years of his NBA career. 

“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” Nets general manager Billy King said in a statement. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”

The reception for Collins, who played collegiately at Stanford, was mostly positive. Outspoken TV commentator and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley told the New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica: “This is a good day in terms of breaking another barrier, but we gotta get to the point where people stop worrying about this."

Collins appeared in 22 games for the Nets in 2014, the final season of his 13-year career. 

In 2021, Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to announce he is gay. No active NHL or Major League Baseball Player has announced he is gay.