That, he and others say, is where pro athletes like Collins may have particular influence, especially if Collins, who is a free agent, signs with a team next season.
‘‘There are certainly other closeted athletes who are looking to Jason Collins to see what will happen with him,’’ says Hudson Taylor, a former collegiate wrestler who, as a straight supporter of his gay and lesbian peers, founded Athlete Ally.
Either way, many — including skater Johnny Weir, who announced he was gay after the last winter Olympics — expect that Collins’ revelation will have a positive impact on young gay and lesbian athletes, partly because so many people are aware of it.
‘‘I'm envious of it,’’ the 28-year-old Weir says, because there wasn’t ‘‘as much craze’’ when he came out. ‘‘But I do really respect it.’’
Smith at Ohio State says he, too, has great respect for the athletes at his school who continue to come out. He recalls, for instance, how a member of the university’s track team named Derrick Anderson recently announced that he’s gay at a school forum.
That said, he hopes that, one day, coming out in such a public way won’t be necessary — that gay and straight athletes and other students can simply coexist.
‘‘That’s a long ways away,’’ Smith says. ‘‘But I think we’re making good progress.’’
Athlete Ally: http://www.athleteally.org/
You Can Play Project: http://youcanplayproject.org/
Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or at http://twitter.com/irvineap