Transcript: George Stephanopoulos Interviews Jason Collins After Becoming First Openly Gay NBA Player

Collins says he hopes other athletes will "raise their hand," follow his lead.

ByABC News
April 30, 2013, 12:30 PM

April 30, 2013— -- ABC News' George Stephanopoulos sat down for an exclusive interview with Jason Collins after the NBA player became the first openly gay athlete in a major U.S. professional team sport. In the interview, which aired Tuesday, April 30, 2013 on "Good Morning America," the Washington Wizards center told Stephanopoulos that a "huge weight has been lifted" from his shoulders and that he is waiting for someone else to "raise their hand" to follow his lead. Click here to read the full story.

The following is an edited transcript of Stephanopoulos' full interview with Collins, which was conducted Monday, April 29, 2013.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Jason, thank you for doing this.

JASON COLLINS: Thank you for having me on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you send this thunderbolt out into the world. Twelve hours later, how does it feel?

COLLINS: It's incredible. You just try to live an honest, genuine life and next thing you know you have the president calling you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he say?

COLLINS: He was incredibly supportive and he was proud of me. And said that this not only affected my life, but others. And he really stressed the importance of that. That it-- it-- yes, I did this-- you know, to affect, you know, change in my life, but that it affects other people-- going forward. And -- I was aware of that going in -- but just -- the response has been incredible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Martina Navratilova said this is going to save some kids' lives.

COLLINS: You know, I look at her as one of my heroes. She's been a role model for me, the way that she -- the dignity and the class that she's lived her life and all that she's achieved in her career. And, you know, how she is my role model – hopefully -- going forward I can be someone else's role model.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what I was going to ask you about. You know, the president calls you today. What do you say to the --

COLLINS: It's still weird to hear, but go ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you say to the 12-year-old boy who's out there practicing right now, wants to be a pro ball player and happens to be gay?

COLLINS: Keep working hard. It shouldn't matter. And-- it doesn't matter-- what your-- that-- you know, that-- that you're gay, but the key thing is that it's about basketball. It's about working hard. It's about sacrificing for your team. And I've always been a part of great teams. Won two state championship and in college we won a Pac-- it was Pac-10 at that time and now Pac-12-- title. And in the pros I've been to the finals twice. And been -- to playoffs nine out of my 12 years in the NBA. In the NBA and-- it's all about hard work. It's all about dedication. And that's what you should focus on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of the things you write is that actually loyalty to your teammates is one of the things that held you back --


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- from making this announcement. Explain that.

COLLINS: Right. You don't want -- because obviously, you know, a lot of eyeballs come -- you know, turn to you. You don't want to be -- you know, that distraction-- because for me it's-- always been about the team. … I know the -- in my personal life -- I'm ready and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player. And --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you believe it hasn't happened before you?

COLLINS: That's kind of-- mind-boggling. I think I talk about that. That, you know, I never set out to be the first. And it's obviously, you know, you're sort of waiting around for somebody else to, you know, raise their hand and I'm ready to raise my hand but, you still look around like, "Okay, come on, guys."

And you see great examples like Brittney Griner and, like we touched on, Martina Navratilova. You know, through, you know, the years and-- you know, it's time for someone else in the room to raise their hand and say, "You know what? Yeah, so-- big deal. I can still play basketball. I can still help the team win and that's what's most important."

STEPHANOPOULOS: So I know this decision has been building for some time. What was the tipping point?

COLLINS: The tipping point really was, once you tell your parents and their response is positive, the rest is downhill after that. You know, having that support of my family. I mean my entire family has been so supportive and my friends and once you have that big talk with -- and-- you know, this can be -- for anyone else out there, whoever that special person, you know, that, relationship you have. But once you have that big talk with whoever that is in your family and you get that support, you get that love, the rest of it is kind of downhill from there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And now you write you're a free agent.


STEPHANOPOULOS: In every sense.

COLLINS: Yeah. Yes. In every sense I'm a free agent, so I'm looking forward to what the future brings.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want keep on playing basketball.

COLLINS: Definitely. And I know that I can still contribute to a basketball to an NBA basketball team.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does this announcement put more pressure on you, make you think you have to make it?

COLLINS: You know what? That's why I have a great agent in Arn Tellem. (LAUGHTER) And he's going to be hard at work this offseason, you know, when free agency starts. And I want to be judged on my 12 year NBA career. I have a lot of teammates. A lot of coaches who I spoke to today supporting me. And, you know, I want to be judged on, my professional achievements in the past and everything else is, your private life is your private life. And that's what, the way I want to keep it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Still going to be a big moment. I know you're going to work hard.

COLLINS: Yes, of course.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And when you walk out onto that court for the first time, is it going to feel different?

COLLINS: You know, to myself, I honestly, I don't know. I think it will-- but each time I put on jersey 98 this past season, I was already sort of having that moment with myself, with my family, with my friends who knew the significance of why I picked that number.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jersey 98 for Matthew Shepherd?

COLLINS: Jersey 98 for Matthew Shepherd and also for The Trevor Project. And they were formed in 1998. So for those two significant events in my mind -- in history of America, period. That's why I wore jersey 98. And also to mess with the refs, because I do have a tendency to foul a lot. But-- no. But-- no, but the primary reason was, every time I put on that jersey I was already making that statement to myself -- and to my family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You do foul a lot.

COLLINS: Yes. I bring that physical toughness, that physical attitude. And, you know, it's part of the game.

RELATED: Jason Collins Says 'Huge Weight' Lifted

STEPHANOPOULOS: And as you write, it goes against the gay stereotype.

COLLINS: That gay stereotype that -- you know what? …. People like me are trying to rewrite that stereotype and trying to let people know that you can't just put people in a box. You can't just say that, "He's gay. He acts this way." Or-- and-- so hoping to, you know, start the conversation over again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I love your shout out to Shaq in the article.

COLLINS: Oh yeah. Yeah.

STEPHANOPOULOS: My flopping has nothing to do with being gay.

COLLINS: No. It has everything to do with he's a Hall of Fame basketball player and I am not. (LAUGHTER) And I had to draw a foul on him some way. Get him out of the game.


COLLINS: Oh, he did?

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- you today. He did. He said, "Character is found in those who lead." And he said he's proud of you.

COLLINS: That's awesome. He's always been-- I've always been a huge fan of his. He kicked my butt several times and dunked on me and he dunked on me so bad one time thatI had at least, like, 20 text messages or missed calls after the game like, "Are you okay?" So but -- you know, next time -- I saw him I tried to give him a hard foul.

He's the ultimate competitor. He's a Hall of Famer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you expecting from your teammates, your competitors when you step back on the court?

COLLINS: From my teammates I'm expecting support, because that's what I would do for my teammates. A team is like a family. The NBA is like a brotherhood. And I'm looking at it that we'll all support each other on and off the court. And you know, we'll go out there -- or whatever team I'm on next year -- knock on wood(LAUGHTER)-- we will go out there to get wins. And that's what, you know, any professional athlete -- that's what you want. It's all about winning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You hoping other players follow your example now?

COLLINS: I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness. Whatever happiness that is in life. I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I've ever been in my life. A huge weight-- has been lifted. I've already been out to my family and my friends, but just to, you know, sort of rip the band aid off and come out on my own terms. That's why I did it this way. And I have to thank Sports Illustrated, the people there, the writer. This whole experience. And especially my agent, Arn Tellem. He's, like my uncle. And I trust him with my life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He was worried for you about making this announcement.

COLLINS: He was -- yes, in the beginning. And, you know, we talked at length about, the way that we were going to make this announcement. And he found the vehicle that allowed me to keep my dignity and allowed me to be comfortable. And the words thank you aren't enough for what he's done for me and for my family.

RELATED: Collins Says It's 'Mind-Boggling' to Be First Openly Gay Major Pro Athlete

Jason Collins Fought Being Gay in the Beginning

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk a little bit more about your journey. You always knew you were gay?

COLLINS: Yeah. I sort of describe it as that the sky is blue but you keep telling yourself that it's red.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you fought it?

COLLINS: Yes. In the beginning. They call it like the 12 steps. You know, you go through anger, denial and all, but when you finally get to that point of acceptance, there's nothing more beautiful. And just allowing yourself to really be happy and be comfortable in your own skin. And of course along with that is that support that I got from my family and from my friends.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You first came out to your aunt.

COLLINS: She was the first family member. I first came out to a friend of mine who actually went to Cal Berkeley. So Stanford guy comes out to -- yeah. But my first family member, he told me, he's like, "You gotta tell someone and the person you trust the most." And it's my aunt. I have a special relationship with my aunt. I love my parents and my brother and everyone else in my family, but there's just something about the way that I get along and just relate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And she said she always knew you were gay?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Known for years.

COLLINS: Yes. And she had her suspicions about me, but she was extremely supportive. And, yeah, she's a judge in San Francisco, so I guess she's good at reading people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you think you might grow up, continue to play, grow old, get married, have a family and never come out?

COLLINS: I knew that I tried everything in the book as far as trying to convince myself. You know, to lead, the life that you should--

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were engaged to a woman at one point?

COLLINS: Yes. And calling off the wedding was obviously a tough decision but it was the right one, because I knew I wasn't getting married for the right reasons. I still love her to this day. She's a great person and-- but as far as doing what was right for both of us, it was the right decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I literally cannot imagine living with what you live with. And you write that you endured years of misery.

COLLINS: Well, when you keep telling yourself a lie, it's tough. But at some point, you buy your own cover story. I guess like a C.I.A. spy or something. But then later in life you see people that -- friends that you went to college with are starting to start their own families. And my brother, he already has three kids now. And you see things that you want in your life and yeah, it makes you kind of unhappy that you're not living an honest, genuine life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn't sleep.

COLLINS: I had trouble sleeping. But all the while I had basketball. I had that routine. And, like most people, when you have something going on in your life you devote-- for me it was you devote yourself to the job. And I devoted myself to basketball, but with the lockout, I didn't have that.

And I started thinking about, you know, "What is the rest of my life going to be?" And that was sort of the impetus for me telling that first person and telling my aunt and then telling my parents and telling my brother and his wife. And just goes on and on and on. And each person that you tell, or that I told was so supportive and just gave me that strength to keep on going.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your brother Jarron, your twin brother.

COLLINS: Twin brother. I'm eight minutes older.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn't know?


STEPHANOPOULOS: How is that possible?

COLLINS: I am really good at playing it straight.

No, you know, maybe he needs to hang out with my aunt a little more. Get a discerning eye like she has. But he's been incredibly supportive to the point where he's almost like I always had that big brother role. I was the center.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it's eight minutes, after all.

COLLINS: Yeah, eight minutes is an eternity. But yeah, I've always had that role on the team of being sort of, you know, the, quote unquote, "enforcer." I sort of was protective of my little brother, who happens to be close to seven feet and 250. But now he's sort of taken on that role of being protecting me. And it's kind of cool to see just how we're obviously best friends and really close, so--

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's interesting. You write about how -- age of 12-- first time you're allowed to listen to rap, hip hop. And that's when you really felt the difference from your brother. You didn't get his attraction to women.

COLLINS: Well, I think, yeah. All kids around that age, around puberty-- you know, you start noticing things. And yeah, there's a difference between us. And we would make a very interesting case study for scientists out there. Twins, nature versus nurture. And identical versus fraternal. We don't know if we're identical or fraternal. So, like I say, it would be an interesting case study.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And like you say, it's not the first surprise your parents had. They didn't know you were twins?

COLLINS: They didn't know that they were having two kids. Yeah. In the delivery room, the nurse said to the doctor, "There's one more in there." So that's why the big gap in time. So definitely-- we keep surprising our parents.

Jason Collins on His Critics

STEPHANOPOULOS: So all of a sudden you're a trail blazer.

COLLINS: All of a sudden I'm being honest, completely honest. That's how I look at it. I know that, yes -- yes, it affects other people's lives but for me it's just you try to do the right thing in life and you try to be genuine. And that's how I look at it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to make you a role model.


STEPHANOPOULOS: But also a target.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Broussard today says he doesn't consider you a Christian because you're living in unrepentant sin.

COLLINS: I am a Christian. I will state that very proudly. My grandmother has made sure that both my brother and myself and obviously my parents too grew up with strong Christian values. And to this day I read a prayer booklet every single day. It's called "The Daily Word." [LAUGHTER] And [it] gives you a nice story and a scripture every single day. But, look. I know that my decision to come forward and tell my story isn't going to make everyone happy. And--


COLLINS: I'm being honest, so if that means that I'm upsetting people, there are a lot of other people in this world are being completely honest and you can't please everyone. You just try to live your life by your values and go about your business.

I've been booed before on an NBA court. And, trust me, there have been times I wanted to boo myself. But everybody's entitled -- this is America. It's the greatest country on the Earth. Everyone's entitled to their own opinions and beliefs.

Whereas I respect everyone's opinion and belief it doesn't mean I agree with everyone. And that doesn't mean everyone's going to agree with me. So I'll be happy to have a discussion if he wants to -- or if anyone wants to, but at the same point-- at the same time I'm not going to be up in your face about it. And, you know, it's my private life and I'd like to keep as much--

STEPHANOPOULOS: You write, though, that if you come up against an intolerant player you're going to set a hard pick.

COLLINS: …. There are ways on a baseball court that you can get your point across without saying words. And it's part of the game. That's why you wear a mouthpiece. That's why you tape your wrists, tape your ankles or whatever. And you dust yourself up and dust yourself off and get back up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This whole issue of privacy, though, does become so central because you've chosen to come out publicly. Yet, you and everyone else has the right to a private life. How do you think about that?

COLLINS: I think that in time I won't be the only one. And -- in time -- I mean the next person has to be a better player.

(LAUGHTER) No, I'm kidding. ….The next person will garner that attention and the spotlight will die down a bit. And you go back and you get in your routine of your private life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Phil Jackson says he's never met a gay player in the NBA. Have you?

COLLINS: Not that I know of. I don't know of any other gay players in the NBA. We don't talk about that. But as far as he's definitely coached against one. His team swept us in the finals, unfortunately. He did have Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neill, so that kind of helped his team.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kobe Bryant tweeted that he was proud of you today too.

COLLINS: That was incredible. All the support has been overwhelming.


COLLINS: Yeah, a bit. I'm kind of a pragmatist. I try to be -- I don't know -- an optimistic pragmatist. (LAUGHTER) And, you hope for the best, but not even in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine the support that I've received from my teammates, coaches, the front office staff, trainers.

Everybody from every part of the NBA family, starting with David Stern and Adam Silver, and then going down even to my rookie in Washington, Bradley Beal, the support has been incredible. And that's just in the realm of basketball and sports. And then you go out from there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Throw in a couple presidents. Yeah.

COLLINS: You throw in a couple presidents and Oprah and all of a sudden you've got yourself a nice pie. No, I'm just kidding. (LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you know, you want to start a conversation. And it's clear that you're at ease with your decision at this point. But what's the most uncomfortable part of the conversation?

COLLINS: Just how it affects my family. You know, I can take all the hits in the world. I feel that I'm strong enough and, like I said, I've been booed by over 18,000 people. You know? I can take all the hits. But when it affects my family, I think that's like most people, don't go there. That's the one major drawback, is how this affects-- if there's any kind of negative effect on my family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There hasn't been any yet?

COLLINS: No. No. There's been incredible just support and to the point where I mentioned that my aunt is a judge. And her courtroom today was so packed with media that she had to do sort of an impromptu press conference during lunchtime. So they can get back to the business of court.

So it's kind of incredible, the response. I'm very proud of not only my teammates, but my coaches, friends. I mean just random people just come up and they shake your hand and they say thank you with a special way. And I'm-- I'm just-- it's-- you know, it touches you. And you just feel honored and humbled.

Jason Collins Talks Family, Future

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk a lot about your family. You'd like a family of your own someday?

COLLINS: Yes, I would.



STEPHANOPOULOS: You want to be married?

...COLLINS: Yes. I, along with many other people in this country, anxiously awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court. And I'm hoping for marriage equality – obviously in this country. It's about time that everyone be allowed to share that special bond and that special day. And, after that day, that special commitment to another person.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it sounds like you just wanna move on from the decision and go back to playing' ball and having' a family and raising kids.

COLLINS: Why not? That's what life's about. I've been very blessed. And I see the joy and hard work that my brother goes through with having three kids all under the age of five. But there's something special about sharing a life with someone. And that's, what I want.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you say you're the happiest you've ever been?


STEPHANOPOULOS: But even more happiness ahead?

COLLINS: Definitely. I'm very optimistic of what the future brings.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congratulations.

COLLINS: Thank you.

RELATED: Collins Says It's 'Mind-Boggling' to Be First Openly Gay Major Pro Athlete