Just as he was concluding a press conference addressing a host of complicated questions covering Syria, Boston, and the future of his political agenda, President Obama rushed back to the podium to answer one more.
“Jason Collins, you want to say anything about him?” asked one reporter as the president was walking out.
“Yeah, I’ll say something about Jason Collins,” said Obama, turning back to the podium. “I had a chance to talk to him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man. And I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Collins announced that he was gay in an op-ed published Monday on Sports Illustrated’s website. The 34-year-old NBA center is the first male athlete actively playing in a major pro-sport to come out as gay.
President Obama spoke about the significance of Collins’ announcement in his remarks on Tuesday:
“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. 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 ahead and say, ‘This is who I am. I’m proud of it. I’m still a great competitor. I’m still 7-foot-tall, and can bang with Shaq, and deliver a hard foul.’ For a lot of young people out there who are gay or lesbian, who are struggling with these issues, to see a role model like that who’s unafraid, I think that’s a great thing. And I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly, and everybody’s part of a family, and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance, and not their sexual orientation. So, I’m very proud of him.”
First Lady Michelle Obama also voiced her support for Collins Monday in tweet:
So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back! -mo
— FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) April 29, 2013