Lesbian Athlete Says NBA Player Will Save Lives with Announcement That He Is Gay

By Penny Starr | May 1, 2013 | 3:18 PM EDT

Retired lesbian tennis star Martina Navratilova (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Retired lesbian tennis star Martina Navratilova reacted to NBA star Jason Collins’ announcement Monday that he is homosexual by writing a commentary stating that his “coming out” will save lives.

“Collins' action will save lives,” Navratilova wrote in a column on Sports Illustrated’s website the same day of Collins’ announcement. “This is no exaggeration: Fully one third of suicides among teenagers occur because of their sexuality.”

Navratilova called it a “watershed moment.”

“Collins will truly affect lives, too,” Navratilova said. “Millions of kids will see that it is OK to be gay.

“No need for shame, no need for embarrassment, no need for hiding,” Navratilova said.

In an interview on NPR’s “All Thing Considered” on Tuesday, anchor Melissa Block asked Navratilova about her commentary.

“You actually said in your column in Sports Illustrated that Jason Collins won’t just be a role model,” Block said. “You said he will save lives.”

“Well, it has happened,” Navratilova said. “I mean, I don’t want to make it about me, but I’ve gotten letters over the years from men and women saying, ‘You saved my life. I was ready to commit suicide, because I thought I was the only one that was like this, and then I saw you on TV or read about you,’ whatever.

“And now this is going to happen again,” Navratilova said. “So there’s no doubt in my mind that this will save some kid’s life.”

In his “coming out” essay, which will be in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, Collins credits Massachusetts Democrat Congressman Joe Kennedy for inspiring his announcement.

“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade,” Collins wrote. “I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy.

“I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator,” Collins wrote.

Collins had a longtime girlfriend, Carolyn Moos, whom he met at Stanford University where they both played basketball. The couple was engaged, but Collins called off the engagement in 2009.