PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 20: Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury speaks during a press conference after being selected as the first pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft at US Airways Center on April 20, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) LOS ANGELES - 1984: Greg Louganis poses with his two gold medals during the Summer Olympics XXIII circa 1984 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) LONDON - UNDATED: Billy Jean King gestures to the crowd near her opponent at the net during a game at the Women's Wimbledon Championships circa 1970's in London, England. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
NBA veteran big man Jason Collins made headlines after becoming the first active male athlete in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay. In a first-person piece for Sports Illustrated, Collins wrote: 'If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.' The Houston Rockets selected Collins with the 18th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Collins has played for six teams over 12 seasons, averaging 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.
One of the most celebrated women's college basketball players, Brittney Griner came out just days after being the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. Griner was dominant at Baylor, setting the single-season blocks record and becoming the all-time leader in blocked shots (736) for men and women. Griner, who was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, led the Bears to a 40-0 mark in 2012 — the most wins in NCAA history.
One of the defining moments of Greg Louganis' career was when he hit his head on the springboard and suffered a concussion while competing in the 1988 preliminary diving competition. Louganis went on to win two gold medals at the Seoul Games, his third and fourth Olympic golds, but he had not disclosed that he was HIV-positive during the competition. In his autobiography, 'Breaking the Surface', he detailed his depression as a teenager and revealed that he was HIV-positive. Louganis announced he was gay in 1994.
One of the most dominant female tennis players in history, Martina Navratilova excelled in Grand Slam competition, capturing 18 singles titles and 31 doubles crowns. Navratilova, who was born in Prague, came out in 1981 shortly after becoming a US citizen. She retired from the sport in 2006.
Billy Bean was a marginal player during his six-year major league career but made headlines when he said he was gay in 1999, four years after his final big league game. Bean hit five homers during his career and played for three teams.
Often referred to as the Michael Jordan of women's basketball, Sheryl Swoopes was one of the most celebrated female basketball players. Swoopes set many records while at Texas Tech, including her 24.9 points-per-game career average, and was named the Naismith College Player of the Year in 1993. Her pro career was just as impressive, being named WNBA MVP and defensive player of the year three times apiece, and winning four WNBA championships. She also won three Olympic golds with Team USA. Swoopes was married from 1995 to 1999 and had a son whom she named after Michael Jordan. She announced she was gay in 2005.
Kwame Harris played six years in the NFL, five with the 49ers and his final season with the Raiders. The offensive tackle's career wasn't very memorable, though he did have one career TD. Harris did get into trouble with the law in 2012, when he got into an altercation with his former boyfriend Dimitri Geier. Harris pleaded not guilty to assault. Not long after this story went public, Harris announced he was gay.
Billie Jean King
Despite all of her Grand Slam glory (12 singles, 16 doubles titles), Billie Jean King is best remembered for her 'Battle of the Sexes' exhibition against Bobby Riggs in 1973 at the Houston Astrodome. King defeated Riggs, who was a top player during the '30s and '40s, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to win $100,000. King, who was married from 1965 to 1987, was forced to acknowledge her relationship with her female secretary, making her one of the first prominent professional female athletes to come out.
John Amaechi became an NBA pioneer when he came out in 2007. He was the first former NBA player to announce he was gay. Amaechi, who played five seasons in the NBA for three different teams, released a book — 'Man in the Middle' — that detailed his career and life as an athlete who hid his sexual orientation.
Megan Rapinoe was instrumental in helping the United States women's soccer team win the 2012 Summer Olympic gold medal, scoring three goals and adding four assists in the tournament. Rapinoe, who came out days before the start of those Games in London, also assisted on a game-tying goal in the 122nd minute against Brazil in a Women's World Cup quarterfinal match, helping author one of the most memorable goals in US women's soccer history.
Former Marine Liz Carmouche fought in the first female bout in UFC history when she took on Ronda Rousey at UFC 157 for the women's bantamweight title. Though Carmouche fought valiantly, putting Rousey in a standing rear-naked choke hold, she eventually lost. Carmouche is also the first openly gay fighter in the UFC.
Gareth Thomas, a former captain of Wales, as well as the British & Irish Lions rugby team, revealed he was gay in 2009 at age 35. At the time, Thomas told the BBC, 'I don't want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man.' Thomas, a utility back, played in 100 international matches — tied for the second most in the nation's history — and scored 40 tries — second most in Wales history.
Chamique Holdsclaw led the Tennessee Volunteers to three consecutive women’s basketball titles, culminating with the Volunteers’ 39-0 mark in 1998. Her spectacular collegiate exploits led her to become the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft by the Washington Mystics. Holdsclaw was named Rookie of the Year and then helped Team USA to the gold medal the next year. In her autobiography 'Breaking Through: Beating the Odds Shot after Shot', she revealed that she suffered from depression during her career and attempted suicide. Holdsclaw's story took a turn for the worse in 2012, when she allegedly attacked her ex-girlfriend's car with a baseball bat and shot at the car. She was released from jail after posting $100,000 bond and awaits a court date.
Mitcham started out as a trampolinist, but went on to become Australia’s first gold medal-winning Olympic diver in 84 years at the 2008 Olympics. He came out earlier in 2008 to a Sydney paper doing profiles on the country’s Olympic hopefuls.
The three-time US champion figure skater faced plenty of speculation about his sexuality, but he always declined to discuss it. He finally came out in a 2011 memoir, citing a string of suicides among gay youth as one reason. He married Victor Voronov in a civil ceremony on New Year’s Eve that same year.
The former Columbus Crew and Leeds United player came out in February 2013 shortly after being released by the English club and retired at the same time. Just 25, he says others have urged him to resume playing. After NBA player Jason Collins' announcement that he was gay on April 29, Rogers tweeted "I feel a movement coming."
The former Oregon State star spent almost a decade in the NFL, and then became just the third ex-NFL player to come out as gay in 2002, three years after his retirement. He has worked with the NFL to combat homophobia and is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.
The Puerto Rican boxer came out in October 2012 and continues to fight as a highly touted featherweight contender. He’s won two fights since the announcement, running his record to 20-2-1 as a professional.