Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in one of North America’s four major professional sports leagues, is urging people to register to vote.
And when they do to, Collins said, they need to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
The basketball star was in Miami Wednesday kicking off a tour of Florida in his role as surrogate for the Clinton campaign. Collins, 37, attended Stanford University with Chelsea Clinton and said his close relationship with the Clinton family aided in his coming out process.
“Their words of advice and providing support really helped,” Collins said in a telephone conversation with SFGN. “I’ve known the Clinton family for twenty years. I’ve seen them as parents and now grandparents. They have always been great at empowering people to be the best they can be.”
For Collins, there is no choice this election cycle.
“Donald (Trump) really doesn’t support us,” Collins said. “He uses verbs that separates us and divides us as a nation and he has surrounded himself with people who have a horrible track record on civil rights and LGBT rights.”
Collins said he intends to travel to Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee encouraging people to vote. At a speaking engagement Wednesday at Miami-Dade College North Campus, Collins promoted the website iwillvote.com.
Collins was a journeyman in the National Basketball Association, playing for seven different teams during his career. The 7-footer came out after the 2013 season, graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine and played his final season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
Hillary Clinton, Collins said, is the obvious choice for LGBT Americans.
“She is the candidate for equality,” Collins said. “She cares about us. She’s a big-tent politician who cares about everyone regardless of their background.”
Collins recently traveled overseas with the U.S. State Department as a sports envoy to Angola. In the southeastern African nation he taught children basketball basics.
In addition to his efforts to register new voters, Collins works with the NBA on diversity projects. He told SFGN he will be returning to South Florida to assist with a LGBT outreach effort on behalf of the league and the hometown Miami Heat.
Presently there is no openly gay athlete in men’s professional basketball.
“I definitely feel it is possible for the player to come out,” Collins said. “It’s just a matter of making that person feel comfortable enough to do so.”