Be You: 5 Famous Openly Gay Athletes

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Jason Collins, a free agent NBA center, made history when he became the first active player in a major American team sport to announce that he is gay. Collins, a 7-foot center and former first round draft pick out of Stanford, is a 12-year veteran and has long been a serviceable big man in the NBA. Playing for six different teams and serving primarily as a backup in recent years, Collins has amassed career averages of 3.6 and 3.8 points and rebounds per game. Recently though, he made arguably the most impressive move of his career by writing the story for Sports Illustrated in which he publicly came out as gay.

5 John Amaechi – Basketball

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John Amaechi may not have been an active player in the NBA like Jason Collins, but he was the first professional basketball player ever to openly admit that he is gay. The former Penn State center played five seasons in the NBA for three different teams, but came into the public spotlight in 2007 when he released the book “Man in the Middle,” which chronicled his life as a gay man in the NBA.

4 Orlando Cruz – Boxing

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Professional featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz became the first active fighter to acknowledge openly that he is gay. Speaking out on the issue back in 2012, Cruz, a former Olympian for the Puerto Rican team and a professional fighter since 2000, told USA Today “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids.”

3 Sheryl Swoopes – Basketball

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Sheryl Swoopes, former women’s basketball standout at Texas Tech, was the first player signed in the first-ever WNBA season back in 1997. Swoopes was a three-time league MVP, a three-time Olympic gold medal winner and is currently the head coach of the women’s team at Loyola University Chicago. Publicly coming out in 2005, Swoopes was quoted as saying “To me, the most important thing is happiness.”

2 Martina Navratilova – Tennis

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One of the all-time professional tennis greats, Martina Navratilova came out as bisexual in 1981 and became the first superstar athlete to come out while still in the prime of her career. An 18-time grand slam singles and 31-time major doubles winner, Navratilova dominated women’s tennis in the 1980s and has since transcended sports and become a famous proponent for the LGBT community.

1 Gareth Thomas – Rugby

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One of the most decorated players in Welsh rugby history, Gareth Thomas, now retired, made headlines back in 2009 when he came out as a gay man while still actively playing professional rugby. Thomas enjoyed a professional career of 15 years and said he decided to come out publicly in hopes of making “a big difference to others in my situation.”

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