When Jason Collins came out to Sports Illustrated, he explained that choosing #98 as his jersey number during 38 games this season while playing for the Boston Celtics was an "act of solidarity" with the gay community.
Collins explains that #98 was significant to him because 1998 was the year The Trevor Project was initiated and also the year the world lost Matthew Shepard.
Shepard's parents have spoken to Fox Sports about Collins's historic coming out and his honouring of their late son:
“It made me cry,” Judy Shepard said. “It was really quite a tribute, and I was very honored. And I know Matt would be thrilled. It’s remarkable in the big picture how fast things have changed, especially since Obama became president. It’s just moved right along at light speed, and it’s really been quite remarkable. It’s always more challenging in team sports to have the courage to (come out), and I think that once the doors open, the floodgates will literally open. And not just in pro sports, but college and all down the line. It’s just a remarkable step forward.”
“I would really love to speak to him, because I know Judy and I would just like to thank him,” Dennis Shepard said. “Because, No. 1, he had the courage to come out, period, and No. 2 that he wore 98 in honor of Matt, the year that he died. [Collins] couldn’t have been that old [when it happened], so it must have had a tremendous impact on him, the story behind Matt, for him to want to do that. And then to wear it all this time without telling people why until today, that’s incredible. Hopefully this will start the conversation saying there’s no difference, as long as my team wins, who cares if they’re straight or gay? There have been a lot of athletes that played and were gay, and I have a feeling their teammates knew it and they just didn’t care.”