Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay basketball player, met with the parents of gay icon Matthew Shepard after a game this week and gave them one of his jerseys, which carries the number 98–honoring the year Shepard was murdered.
In its story about the meeting, the Associated Press reported that Shepard “was tortured and murdered in 1998 because he was gay.”
Collins said, “I was in college at the time… when he was killed, and of course it’s a tragedy, what happened, and I just hope that it inspires others to move forward…”
Shepard’s father told the AP that he looked forward to the day when someone’s sexuality would be a non-issue. He asked that there be no publicity about the meeting with Collins, though neither Collins nor the Shepards explained who called the AP to cover the meeting.
The Matthew Shepard myth lumbers on even though a thoroughly sourced book came out last fall by award-winning gay journalist Stephen Jimenez that showed Shepard was not murdered by strangers who killed him because he was gay but rather by a friend who was a sometime sex partner and fellow drug dealer.
Jimenez worked on the book for ten years after starting out believing the myth and wanting to make a movie about it. He quickly found out there were threads of the story – Shepard’s drug use and his connection to the killer – that had been ignored. Jimenez listed more than 100 named sources in the book to show the Shepard story was little more than a highly effective myth that persists to this day.
The Brooklyn Nets have not said whether the nearly scoreless Collins will get an extension to his ten-day contract with the team.