jason collins*Somebody had to be the first active professional athlete to come out of the closet.

Well, Washington Wizards center Jason Colins today said he’s the one. Collins, who’s been in the NBA since 2001, revealed that he is a homosexual.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins told Sports Illustrated. He added: “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’m glad I can stop hiding and refocus on my 13th NBA season.”

Collins’ announcement is seen as a watershed moment by Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network and MSNBC host:

“The announcement made by NBA center Jason Collins today about being a gay male marks the first time a professional athlete has openly confirmed his sexuality. This is a breakthrough moment in sports and another step towards tolerance and fairness in the African-American community. I salute the courage and candor of Mr. Collins and think he has made a great contribution to this country and I call on others in the civil rights community and the African-American leadership of all fields to embrace this development. We can’t be custodians of intolerance and freedom fighters at the same time. In order to fight for anyone’s civil rights and self expression we must fight for everyone’s civil rights. God Bless Jason Collins for helping to show us the way.”

For more, watch this ESPN report: