Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Openly gay NBA star Jason Collins recently participated in a panel discussion on “Athletes and Social Responsibility.” The community forum was part of the CNN Dialogues  series presented by CNN and Emory University’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference. The two-hour discussion was held in Atlanta’s new Center for Civil and Human Rights and featured Collins along with former football player, Pellom McDaniels; Olympic medalists Natalie Coughlin and Shannon Miller; and CNN political commentator, Greg Anthony, who also served as the evening’s moderator.

During the conversation, Collins revealed what ultimately caused him to go public about his sexuality:

“I had reached a point in my life where I told my family and the majority of my friends that I was gay.  I also had their love and support which is not always the case.  Sometimes when people come out they’re met with rejection by their family and friends but that wasn’t the case for me. So, I consulted with my agent, who helped me find the writer who would allow me to tell my story on my own terms. I wanted to be the one to out myself. I had grown tired of waiting for someone else to do it [come out]. I’ve always been a lead-by-example kind of guy and if I had to be the first person in the NBA to come out, then so be it.”

Collins went on the further explain the importance of athletes using their celebrity as ‘voices’ for issues that speak to their souls.

“We’ve seen examples of athletes making a social statement. You have a huge platform and if it’s something that speaks to you or speaks to your soul, then why not take advantage of the opportunity.  The dialogue helps to bring awareness and unity and gets people talking about it more. The more conversations that are had, the more people can express their opinions and work through whatever issues there are in society that divides us.”

Check out a few more photos of Collins and the panelists below:

Greg Anthony

 Greg Anthony


 Anthony, Collins and Natalie Couglin talking about the importance of social media

Shannon and Pellom

 Shannon Miller and Pellom McDaniels III

Photo 1

Photo Credits: Megan Alodie for RayCornelius.com