WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday joined the chorus of praise by commending NBA veteran Jason Collins for becoming the first active male player in the four major American professional sports to come out as gay.
White House spokesman Jay Carney called his decision courageous and said the White House supports Collins. He siad he hopes the 34-year-old center’s team will also offer support.
Carney says the White House views Collins’ decision as another example of progress and evolution in the U.S. as Americans grow more accepting of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
Collins disclosed he was gay Monday in a first-person account posted on Sports Illustrated’s website.
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” he wrote.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”
Collins has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards.
“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, in a statement on behalf of the team. “He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”
Adding his praise was former President Bill Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, attended Stanford University with Collins.
Article continues below“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,” said Bill Clinton.
“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,” he said.
NBA’s Kobe Bryan tweeted: “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU”
NFL free agent Brendon Ayanbadejo, added: “By @jasoncollins34 opening doors & doing it his way on his time he has helped shape a more accepting America. May many more follow #courage”
Later in the day, First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted: “So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back! -mo”