During a Tuesday press conference at the White House, President Barack Obama praised NBA center Jason Collins for his decision to come out as gay, saying he was "very proud" of the athlete.
"I had a chance to talk to him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man," Obama said. "I told him I couldn't be prouder... one of the extraordinary measures of progress that we've seen in this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full equality, not just partial equality. Not just tolerance, but a recognition that they're fully a part of the American family."
Obama continued, "And given the importance of sports in our society for an individual who's excelled at the highest levels in one of the major sports to go out and say, 'This is who I am, I'm proud of it, I'm still a great competitor, I'm still seven foot tall and can bang with Shaq,' ... For I think a lot of young people out there who are gay or lesbian, who are struggling with these issues, to see a role model out there who's unafraid... This is just one more step in the ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly ... We judge people on the basis of their character and their performance, not on their sexuality. I'm very proud of him."
Collins, who played this season for the Washington Wizards, came out in an article published Monday by Sports Illustrated. He is the first openly gay male professional athlete currently playing in a major sport.
The Huffington Post reports that Obama spoke with Collins on Monday, expressing his support for the athlete and telling the 34-year-old that he was "impressed by his courage." A number of other political figures have also praised Collins, including former President Bill Clinton, Collins' former Stanford roommate Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), and First Lady Michelle Obama.
During his first televised interview since coming out, Collins said the president was "incredibly supportive."
"It's incredible. Just try to live an honest, genuine life and the next thing you know you have the president calling you," Collins told ABC's Good Morning America. "He was incredibly supportive and he was proud of me, said this not only affected my life but others going forward."