Jason Collins Is Not the First Out Gay Pro Athlete

WNBA's Brittney Griner at the 2012 ESPY Awards. <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-564025p1.html?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Helga Esteb</a>/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com</a>


Although his coming out in Sports Illustrated is big news, NBA star Jason Collins is not the “first openly gay athlete in professional North American team sports,” as some have claimed. Claiming as much implies that either women’s sports don’t matter as much (or don’t exist at all), or that coming out is somehow less of a big deal for professional athletes who happen to be women. Here are just a few of them:

  • Retired WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, who came out in 2005 when she played for the Houston Comets. (She later married a man.)
  • Brittney Griner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
  • Chamique Holdsclaw, former WNBA player most recently with the San Antonio Silver Stars.
  • Megan Rapinoe, member of the US Women’s National Team, now playing soccer professionally in France.
  • Lori Lindsey, USWNT member in the 2012 Olympics who currently plays for the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League.

There have also been a number of out stars in individual sports—including Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova in tennis and Orlando Cruz, a professional boxer.

There have also been other male professional athletes in team sports who have come out, even if they’re not in the “big four” professional sports—like Andrew Goldstein, the goalie for Major League Lacrosse’s Long Island Lizards.

 

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.