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U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III and his former college roommate Boston Celtics center Jason Collins - NBA star said Irish American pol inspired him to announce that he is gay Photo by: Chitose Suzuki

NBA gay star Jason Collins credits Joe Kennedy III with helping him come out - VIDEO

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U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III and his former college roommate Boston Celtics center Jason Collins - NBA star said Irish American pol inspired him to announce that he is gay Photo by: Chitose Suzuki

Jason Collins, who made history this week by becoming the first pro sportsman to come out as gay, has credited Congressman Joe Kennedy III for helping him to make his historic decision.

Collins played with the Celtics before his current team the Washington Wizards.

According to the Boston Herald Collins, 34, a 12-year veteran of the NBA, was inspired by the example Kennedy set marching in Boston's Pride Parade.

'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 in his coming out article in Sports Illustrated.

'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. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.''

Congressman Kennedy
admitted that he admired Collins' trailblazing courage and valued his friendship.

'For as long as I’ve known Jason Collins he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity and the biggest heart you will ever find,' Kennedy in a statement. 'Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he’s got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I’m proud to stand with him today and proud to call him a friend.'

Collins also credits the recent Boston Marathon bombings as a factor in his decision to come out publicly.

'The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect,' Collins said.

'Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We’ll be marching on June 8.'

The 2011 NBA player lockout gave Collins time to reflect on what really mattered to him, he writes.

'Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore,' Collins wrote in Sports Illustrated. 'Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.'

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said he’s proud of Collins honesty.

'I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’s a pro’s pro,' said Rivers. 'He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite ‘team’ players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance. One of my favorite sayings is, I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be it’s not up to you, it’s just me being me.'

In a statement Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wrote that the city looked forward to welcoming Collins home to Boston for the Pride Parade in June.

Advertising experts have indicated that the first openly gay man in a major American team sport stands to make millions of dollars in endorsements and speaking engagements.

Last night the First Lady Michelle Obama also offered her support via Twitter:

'So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back! - mo'

Here's the AP report on Jason Collins' big news:

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