Bill Clinton: Jason Collins Coming Out Is 'An Important Moment For Professional Sports'

Bill Clinton Praises NBA Center For Coming Out

Former President Bill Clinton praised NBA center Jason Collins for becoming the first male athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay, noting Collins' friendship with his daughter, Chelsea.

"I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford," reads Clinton's statement. "Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned."

Chelsea Clinton also tweeted her support for Collins:

The 34-year-old NBA player, who currently plays for the Washington Wizards, came out in an article published by Sports Illustrated on Monday.

"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins told the sports magazine. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

The Clintons aren't Collins' only political friends. In the Sports Illustrated article, Collins explains how Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), his roommate at Stanford, helped him decide to come forward about his sexuality.

"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade," Collins writes. "I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator."

“For as long as I've known Jason Collins he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will ever find," Kennedy said in a Monday statement about his former roommate's announcement. "Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he's got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I'm proud to stand with him today and proud to call him a friend.”

According to Sports Illustrated, Collins notified the former president, as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, of his decision to come out ahead of the article's publication.

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