Tennesseans have mixed reactions to first openly gay athlete

East Tennesseans have mixed reactions to first openly gay American professional athlete

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Jason Collins is featured on a May 2013 Sports Illustrated cover. Jason Collins is featured on a May 2013 Sports Illustrated cover.
"It's great for Jason Collins. I think he's setting the pathway for other pro athletes who've had to hold back who they are," said Vance Brown, of Knoxville. "It's great for Jason Collins. I think he's setting the pathway for other pro athletes who've had to hold back who they are," said Vance Brown, of Knoxville.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Reaction going on across the country to the milestone announcement made Monday in the world of professional sports.

NBA player Jason Collins has come out as gay, making him the first male professional athlete in any of the four major American sports leagues to do so.

The announcement came by way of a story posted Monday on Sports Illustrated's website, written by Collins himself.

The 34-year-old veteran center said in the article, "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation."

And that's exactly what he's done.

People across the country and right here in East Tennessee are talking about his decision.

"One of the most prominent, featured athletes in the country can say, 'I am who I am.' I think he's telling everybody, you know what, today's the day. Today is the day to put your foot down and say, it's cool," said Vance Brown of Knoxville.

Collins has played in the NBA for 12 years, for six different teams, and he said he plans to continue playing.

"It's really awesome that he's coming out and telling everybody," said Stephanie Pace, of Knoxville.

Collins played last season with the Washington Wizards.

Locals think the now free agent has opened the door for other gay athletes to feel comfortable coming out as well.

"We're seeing champions of human rights in this generation and it's great to see pro sports athletes leading the way," said Brown. "It's great for Jason Collins. I think he's setting the pathway for other pro athletes who've had to hold back who they are."

His announcement has also been met with some backlash as well.

Many people in Knoxville told 6 News they are against his decision to come out, saying they don't support it because it goes against their beliefs on homosexuality.

They declined to go on camera.

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