In his coming out article in Sports Illustrated, Jason Collins revealed that he decided to wear rarely seen number “98” as a subtle tribute to Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was brutally murdered in 1998.
“My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organisation provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I’ve struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.”
Collins wore number 34 for the first 10 years of his career.
He said he was leading a “double life” before recently coming out. He was engaged at one point, and he didn’t come out to anyone in the NBA before his SI article.
His own twin brother was “astounded” when Jason came out to him last summer.
So even though he went to great lengths to hide his sexuality, his number was a hidden form of self expression.