Jason Collins wears the number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because of his sexuality. It was that incident that spurred a national discussion and legislative push on hate crimes against homosexuals (Wyoming had no such law to charge the accused with in this case), including the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law in 2009.
Shepard’s parents, particularly his mother Judy Shepard, are now active advocates of-hate crime legislation as well as tolerance programs, something promoted by their Matthew Shepard Foundation.
After Collins’ Brooklyn team easily handled a shorthanded Denver squad on Thursday night, Collins — the first openly gay player in the NBA — met with the Shepard family and presented them with a jersey. It was something Collins described to the media after the game as “one of those cool treats in life” (via the Associated Press).