Jason Collins scored his first points in a Brooklyn Nets jersey Thursday night, but what happened afterward was much more noteworthy.
Collins met with the parents of slain college student Matthew Shepard after the win. Collins, the first openly gay athlete in a major U.S. sport, was in college at the time of Shepard’s death and said it deeply affected him.
”It’s a tragedy what happened, and I just hope that it inspires others to move forward,” Collins said of remembering Shepherd, who was murdered in 1998 because he was gay.
Shepard’s parents and brother made the journey from Casper, Wyo., to the Pepsi Center to meet Collins after the game.
Collins gave Shepard’s parents a signed Brooklyn Nets jersey with his own No. 98 on it. Collins has been wearing No. 98 since his 2012 stint with the Boston Celtics as homage to both Shepard and the Trevor Project, which was established in 1998 to help prevent suicides among LGBT youth.
While Dennis Shepard has previously praised Collins for inspiring gay children everywhere, he said he hopes a person’s sexual identity will someday be a non-issue.
”There should be no publicity over this. It should be just an ordinary every day thing, like the military now,” he said. ”That’s what we’re hoping for, soon.”
”His career is the most important thing,” Judy Shepard added. ”That’s it.”
Photo via Twitter/@jasoncollins34