SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — An Australian basketball player became the first openly gay man to compete in the country’s professional league, saying he finally felt comfortable telling his teammates the “truth.”
Isaac Humphries, a 24-year-old who has trained with the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks in the National Basketball Association, said he had realized he could “reveal himself as a gay man and still play professional sport.”
“It is a truth about myself that I have wanted to deny for a long time, but now I feel comfortable telling you all,” said Humphries, who plays for Melbourne United in Australia’s National Basketball League.
Humphries was reportedly just the second male basketballer to come out while playing professionally, following in the footsteps of queer icon and NBA veteran Jason Collins.
He was also the first openly gay Australian man to play basketball in a top competition, Melbourne United said in a statement.
While it remains exceedingly rare for openly gay men to play sports at a professional level, there has been some progress in recent years.
Collins — who played in the NBA for more than 10 seasons — in 2013 became the first man to come out as gay while playing in a top-tier basketball league.
There had not been another until Humphries’s announcement on Wednesday.
“I have been through extremely dark times during this journey, but I have been through so much growth and I am now happy with who I am,” Humphries told his Melbourne teammates in a video shared widely on social media.
“I want to demonstrate that you can be a professional athlete, you can be anything you want, and still be gay.”
Other male basketballers have come out as gay, but typically once their careers have ended and they are no longer under the intense spotlight of professional sports.
The NBA in the United States, widely considered the best professional league in the world, said it was “proud and grateful” to Humphries.
“Isaac has our unwavering respect and support,” it said on Twitter.