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