CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The mother of a gay University of Wyoming student who was robbed and beaten to death in 1998 says she finds it touching that NBA veteran Jason Collins honored her son by wearing jersey No. 98.
Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy, said that she hadn’t known about the tribute by Collins, who this week became the first player still active in one of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues to announce that he is gay.
“We’re very touched that he regards Matthew as somebody special,” Judy Shepard said in a telephone interview. “We’re especially happy that now he feels free to be himself. We’re happy for him, relieved that his news is being received so well across the board.”
While Collins hid his sexual orientation up until now, he said he quietly made a statement for gay rights by wearing No. 98 with the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards. The number refers to 1998, the year Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten outside Laramie. Shepard died days later on Oct. 12, 1998, and two men were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Shepard’s killing resulted in campaigns to raise awareness about violence against gays and to pass hate-crimes laws in the United States.
Shepard and her husband, Dennis, have established a foundation based in Denver that seeks to raise awareness about and advocate for gay issues.
“We’re on the road to full equality, and it’s about damn time,” she said.