(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
President Barack Obama said he is proud of NBA player Jason Collins during a news conference Tuesday, just one day after Collins became the first male athlete from any of the four major professional sports in the U.S. to announce that he is gay.
"I had a chance to talk to [Collins] yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man, and I told him I couldn't be prouder of him. You know, 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 said, according to a video from CBSnews.com.
He later added, "I think Americans should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly ... and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance, not their sexual orientation."
First Lady Michelle Obama also offered her support for the 7-foot center via a statement on Twitter.
"So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We've got your back!" she wrote. She signed the message "-mo" to indicate that she, and not an aide, posted the tweet.
Collins came out Monday in an article he wrote with Franz Lidz for Sports Illustrated.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote in the opening words of the article, which will appear in print on May 6 but is already published on the magazine's website.
Later in the article, Collins says his parents were Sunday school teachers who "instilled Christian values" in him.
"I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding," he wrote.
On Monday, ESPN analyst Chris Broussard discussed Collins' announcement on the network's "Outside the Lines" program, arguing that homosexual behavior is sinful.
"If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be. I think that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," said Broussard.
Broussard's comments were met with some backlash, though he later said via Twitter that his personal beliefs will not affect his reporting and that Collins "displayed bravery" in making his announcement.
Collins has played for six different teams during his career, most recently for the Washington Wizards, and has appeared in two NBA Finals. He is currently a free agent and looking to continue his career playing basketball.