NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out

The Associated Press and Trey Scott

NBA veteran Jason Collins disclosed he was gay Monday in a first-person account, published by Sports Illustrated. He has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards.

Writes Collins: 

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.

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. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

Collins is the first active male player on one of the four major North American sports teams — NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL — to come out as gay. His announcement has generated much reaction. As of noon CST, SI's story had been shared 27,000 times on Twitter. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted: Proud of [Collins]. "Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others." Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: " … I'm overwhelmed by your bravery, Jason, and sending so much love."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the White House views Collins' decision as another example of progress and evolution in the U.S. as Americans grow more accepting of gay rights and same-sex marriage. Last year, during his re-election campaign, Obama announced his support for gay marriage.

Former President Bill Clinton is asking fans and colleagues of NBA player Jason Collins to support and respect him after Collins announced he is gay.

Clinton said in a statement Monday that he has known Collins since he attended Stanford University with his daughter Chelsea. He says Collins' announcement posted on Sports Illustrated's website is an "important moment" for professional sports.

He said Collins is "a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek — to be able to be who we are, to do our work, to build families and to contribute to our communities."

– Information from The Associated Press was used in this article.