Obama, Time Magazine recognize Collins’s ’97 influence, achievements

Patrick Ryan

Jason Collins ’97, the first active athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay, was recognized by Time Magazine 2014 list of “100 Most Influential People in the World” and by President Barack Obama last week. Collins was named by Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

“It’s a cool honor,” Collins said of being included in the magazine’s list in an interview with the New York Daily News last week. “But I know I’m not just doing this by myself. There have been a lot of people who have helped me get to where I am, a lot of people who have made the path easier for me, and that’s the one thing I hope I’m doing for other people is making it easier for them to live their authentic life.”

Collins announced he is gay last April in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

Chelsea Clinton, Collins’ classmate at Stanford University, wrote the testimonial for Collins in Time.

“[Collins] has meant so much to our country and made such an imprint on our society,” Head of Athletics Terry Barnum said. “The things that he has done and will continue to do [are] leaving a legacy that is going to be there for generations to look back on and revere.”

Collins was placed on one of the inside covers of Time Magazine.

“I’m just proud that he is a Harvard-Westlake alum, I’m proud to know him personally and I think it’s just a great thing,” Barnum said. “To have that honor really sets you apart. To be able to have the impact that he’s had, it’s just phenomenal.”

The other members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition are basketball player Alonzo Mourning, chef and food television personality Rachel Ray, dancer Misty Copeland and SS+K co-founder Robert Thomas Shepardson.

“Anytime you get recognized by the President of the United States and hand-picked to be on a council that is going to advise him on issues that are going to affect the whole country, I think that’s huge,” Barnum said. “That’s a great accomplishment for [Collins]. It speaks to who he is as person, as a man [and] what a leader he is in our country.”

Collins signed a contract with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets last month and averaged 1.1 points and 0.9 rebounds in 22 games this season.

“Who he is and what he represents kind of transcends sports,” Barnum said. “He’s much more than a basketball player. [Collins] has always been more than just a basketball player, as well as his brother Jarron [’97]. Basketball has been what they do, but basketball has never been who they are. Basketball may have been the vehicle from which he reached the millions of people that he has reached, but by no means does that define who he is. It’s just a part of who he is.”