Pick-A-Day

October 2019
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He wears 98: Jason Collins and why Matthew Shepard still matters.

Yesterday evening, while I was busy working on a project, two friends let me know that an NBA player had come out as gay.

Jason Collins, a 34-year-old, free agent, basketball player took the leap out of the closet in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

It’s cool and I would have let it float past me without too much extra thought had there not been this bit toward the bottom:

My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found.

Wham.

Did you know that it is difficult to get work done when you’re tearing up, on the verge of crying?

This small gesture by Jason Collins means the world to me – because much of who I am today is because Matthew Shepard suffered so mightily on that fence over on the east side of Laramie.

It also goes to show that for my generation – and make no mistake Jason is of my generation – Matthew Shepard matters in a way that is hard to measure. His untimely death inspired me to be better, making me a better human being. It also influenced Jason Collins – and thousands of others.

His choice to wear number 98 will spark countless conversations among the next generation and help Matthew’s Mom, the surprised, but pleased Judy Shepard, continue her important work.

I never want Matthew Shepard to be forgotten.

Jason Collins is helping my wish come true.

Thank you.

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