Openly gay basketball player Jason Collins, who just signed a ten-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, will continue to wear the number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, the openly gay college student who was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.
The Nets are scheduled to play against the Denver Nuggets on February 27, and Matthew’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, plan to be in attendance. Judy Shepard told NewNowNext, “It’s really exciting—I’m really excited for him.
“To bring Matt’s story into it, to continue to keep Matt’s story out there, it reminds people that this is the kind of thing that happens and is still happening, even if we don’t read about it like we used to,” she said. “We were very touched. For him to make that tribute to Matt was meaningful to us.”
Dennis Shepard added, “By bringing out Matt’s story again, Jason is encouraging others to view people who are different in a new light. He’s also giving a lot of kids out there hope, something to live for.”
Collins, who is a twelve-year veteran of the National Basketball Association (NBA), came out in an issue of Sports Illustrated in the spring of 2013. While playing with the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics, he chose to wear the number 98 in a silent show of solidarity with the LGBT community. He wanted to wear it during his game on February 23, when he officially became the first out active player in the NBA, but the Nets didn’t have the number at the time. Collins wore the number 46 instead.
The Nets are also scheduled to play on February 26, against the Portland Trailblazers.